Sandeep Singh: Rajewal And Suspensions, A Conversation With Surjit Phool
While Phool remains suspended he is still at Singhu Border protesting
February 14, 2021 | 5 min. read
I sat down for an interview with Surjit Phool, a leader of the BKU (Krantikari) and a part of the United Farmers Front which is negotiating the three farm bills with the Modi government.
Phool is from Rampura Phool of Bathinda. He started his activism journey with the Punjab Student Union in 1979 and after working with many farm organizations, he founded BKU (Krantikari) in 2004. Today his organization has footprints in nine districts of Punjab.
He and Harpal Sangha of Azad Kisan Samiti were suspended from a group of 32 organizations from Punjab for going down the wrong route on the January 26 Republic Day Tractor Rally.
During my conversation with him, he shares that Sangha’s suspension has been revoked but his has not. While Phool remains suspended he is still at Singhu Border protesting.
He also makes many other claims regarding top farm leader Balbir Singh Rajewal.
Sandeep Singh: A Punjabi newspaper had reported that farm organizations have called for a social boycott of Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee Leaders Satwant Pannu and Sarwan Pandher. It also claimed that farm unions have called Lakha Sidhana and Deep Sidhu’s boycott. Does your organization support these boycotts?
Surjit Phool: Our organization feels it is wrong and we do not agree with this boycott. We may have political and ideological differences with any organization. We may disagree with someone’s actions. But to call for a boycott just because of these differences is wrong. We have not called for their boycott.
Sandeep Singh: It has been alleged that people who went to the Red Fort were the government’s people and some people have said that there was a conspiracy behind that incident. What are your thoughts about that?
Surjit Phool: It would be wrong to call all people who went to Red Fort as part of a government conspiracy. Mere two to four people did not go to Red Fort. Farmers were going to Red Fort that day until as late as 11 PM. Hundreds took their tractors to the Red Fort. And those people had participated in the protest since its beginning on Delhi’s border. Since November 27, 2020. To suggest that they were part of a government conspiracy does not seem right.
Sandeep Singh: Were you and Harpal Sangha suspended?
Surjit Phool: It is wrong to say that we were suspended from the United Farmers Front. It is completely fake news.
We were suspended from a coalition of 32 farm unions of Punjab. On January 27, we were invited to a meeting and informed about the suspension. The reason for the suspension was that we had gone on outer ring road during the Republic Day parade. We were told that we were banned from addressing the stage and also from attending meetings.
We told them that we should have been given the chance to present our side before the suspension. We had no pre-plan to go on the outer ring road. Rajewal told us that they have taken a decision and if we had objections we should appear and appeal before the three-member panel formed by the unions.
Then we appealed before the three-member committee and told them that the allegations were baseless. We did not go on ring road intentionally. Even though we were sacked without being heard we accepted the decision in the interest of the larger struggle. We are waiting for the three-member committee’s decisions.
Sandeep Singh: What do union members have to say about your appeal before the three-member committee?
Surjit Phool: We appealed on January 27. It has been 16 days since. They invited us two days ago for presenting our sides of the argument. We gave clarification about January 24 and 25’s incidents. They told us that they will prepare a report and present it before the 32 farm organizations.
Sandeep Singh: According to reports, Harpal Sangha and your suspensions have been revoked. Is this not true?
Surjit Phool: Two days ago, they revoked Harpal Sangha’s suspension but not mine. My suspension is still pending.
Sandeep Singh: Why is your suspension still in force?
Surjit Phool: They seem to think differently about me. When they invited me three days ago, they told me that they are identifying whether we went intentionally on the ring road or not. It will be clear in the next few days ago, whether they have a completely different purpose behind this or not.
Sandeep Singh: Why did you go on the ring road?
Surjit Phool: We had no plan to go on the ring road. On January 26, we started our journey around 10 AM in Samyukta Kisan Morcha’s car and Gurnam Chaduni was with us. By the time we reached there, many people and tractors had gone approximately four to five kilometers down the ring road. So we decided to go and bring back the youngsters from there. We brought them back.
Sandeep Singh: You are saying Chaduni was on the ring road. How many farm leaders were on the ring road?
Surjit Phool: Around five to six leaders of Punjab’s farm unions had gone on the ring road till Majnu Ka Tilla Gurudwara. Manjit Rai, Baldev Singh Nihalgarh, Major Singh Punwala, and Baldev Singh Sirsa were with me.
Sandeep Singh: When five leaders had gone with you, then why were only you two suspended?
Surjit Phool: This question should be asked to them, especially Balbir Singh Rajewal. In Rajewal’s presidentship, a meeting was held in which we were suspended.
We think it is because we have a difference of opinions on various issues with Rajewal.
When farmers started their journey from Punjab, we were of the opinion that we should go to Delhi by breaching barricades. Rajewal was against breaking barricades. He had said that we will not break barricades.
On November 27 Rajewal wanted farmers to go to Burari Ground. We wanted to stay put here. Rajewal has announced from the stage and said that our people should not sit on the road but go to Burari Ground. We were of the opinion that either we should go to Ram Lila Ground or stay here at Singhu border. Here too our differences came out in open.
We are of the opinion that we were suspended because we always have a different view on issues than them. They used to be on the North Pole while we were on the South Pole. It seems it too played a role in the suspension.
Sandeep Singh hails from Machhiwara, Punjab. As an independent journalist, he has worked with many prominent Indian news organizations. Sandeep has been following the farmer’s protest in Punjab since its onset and traveled with them to Delhi. He spends most of his time at the Singhu border protest site. You can follow Sandeep on Twitter @Punyaab
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