Sandeep Singh: Renewed Calls For Unity As Farm Unions Deliberate On Sidhana

Punjab’s 32 farm unions held two meetings, one secretly on March 18 and the other on March 20. These meetings were incredibly important as they could shape the future trajectory of the agitation. 

Sandeep Singh
March 22, 2021 | 5 min. read

The January 26 Tractor Rally exposed differences within the Farmers’ Protest coalition and leadership. 

Observes have suggested that pre-existing tensions between comrades and panthic leaders were publicly laid bare as a result of that day and the way in which some farm union leaders scapegoated youth for the Red Fort incident. Others have interpreted post-Republic Day events as a struggle between personal ambitions. 

Regardless of where commentators may stand on the current state of affairs amongst leadership, new efforts are being made to once again unite the various factions as the agitation looks to renew previous energy. 

These efforts may lead to the end of Lakha Sidhana’s ostracism by some farm union leaders as it becomes more apparent that panthic youth were critical to the early success of the Farmers’ Protest. 

Sidhana, a gangster-turned-activist, has continued to stay in the headlines irrespective of the moves made by many to silence him. He turned to Facebook Live when he was occasionally barred from the United Farmers Front (SKM)’s stage. After January 26, when he was called a traitor by some farm leaders for his alleged role in the Red Fort incident, and Delhi police put a bounty on his arrest, his popular Facebook page was shut down by authorities. However, he would rise again, appearing at a large rally held in his honour, as well as doing interviews and addresses on Facebook and Punjabi media. 

Now, he is set to return again. 

Punjab’s 32 farm unions held two meetings, one secretly on March 18 and the other on March 20. These meetings were incredibly important as they could shape the future trajectory of the agitation. 

Farm leaders discussed officially re-accommodating Sidhana. According to sources, the question was first raised in the secret March 18 meeting, with all unions, barring three or four, agreeing to invite Sidhana back into the movement officially. 

The issue was to be solved in the March 20 meeting. A source very close to the deliberation process shared that a vote would be taken if there was no consensus between the 32 unions. However, some key leaders were not present in the meeting so the decision has been delayed for now as organizers were busy with preparations for Bhagat Singh’s Martyr’s Day being held today. 

An emerging farm activist shared with Baaz that Sidhana would arrive at Singhu within the next few days. His supporters remain active, and a prominent Punjabi singer is playing a vital role in sorting out differences between unions, youth, and Sidhana. Sources shared that one of Punjab’s more respected singers, who has been at the protest site from the onset, even attended a meeting and is working to bring Sidhana back to Delhi. 

Sukh Jagroan, a journalist and an avid Sidhana supporter, warned farm leaders that he will hold a press conference on March 24 to expose the handful of unions that are acting as an obstacle to unity.

“Social activist Harinder Singh, a prominent Punjabi singer, and I have tried to bring farm leaders, Deep Sidhu and Lakha Sidhana on one platform. (Deep too will be brought on stage once he comes out of jail.) But I want to tell you that barring 3-4, all of Punjab’s farm leaders have agreed on the Lakha question,” he said in a Facebook post. 

The Sidhana issue is becoming more critical with each passing day. 

His popularity amongst the youth has not faltered since Republic Day, in fact, it appears to only be getting stronger as his supporters have begun holding large rallies in Punjab. After the events at Red Fort, the youth felt sidelined and misunderstood.

Two new groups - Naujwan-Kisan Sehyog Jatha and Sangarsh Sehyog Jatha - came into existence post-January 26 in order to corporate with farm unions, but also project their strength in a bid to reunite the agitation with the youth and other disenfranchised groups.   

Resham Singh, a former student leader, is one of the organizers of these groups. He said they formed the organization, which consists of three student organizations, langar committees, and many other organizations from Punjab and Haryana, to co-operate with farm unions.  

“One of our objectives is that youth leaders and panthic organizations should work together, and the path towards Kisan Mazdoor Sangarsh committee’s stage should be reopened.  If we want to fight against Modi and win, then we need to unite,” he said. 

Student for Society (SFS) activist Raman Singh has also been involved with these youth-led efforts. He shares that youth became disconnected from the movement after the events of January 26, when farm leaders scapegoated them. His demand is simple, farm leaders should work with the youth. 

“Many farm leaders had spoken against the youth. Now, some have moved from their earlier positions. One farm leader said that all the youngsters belong to them. Another said farm leaders are responsible for all the youngsters.  Unity will bring farmers and youth together. There is nothing bigger than the struggle,” he added.

Editor of Sikh Siyasat, Parmjeet Singh, has been watching the relationship between farm leaders and the youth wane over the months, particularly so after unions formally distanced themselves from Sidhana. He helped organize the Sangarsh Sehyog Jatha, which is working to mobilize youth and bring unity between the different groups behind the Farmers’ Protest.

“After the January 26 incidents, leadership had taken a defensive stand and disowned youngsters, which led to the formation of Sangarsh Sehyog Jatha. Our only aim was to co-operate,” he continues, “We thought this is not a communist versus Sikh fight, but a fight against the three farm laws. Then on March 7, A program was held in memory of Navreet Singh at Singhu Border which was organized by Sangarsh Sehyog Jatha. That program had brought farm leadership, which were otherwise not ready to see each other, to one stage. Also, the Jatha took the initiative of holding ardasses in 100 Gurudwaras across the world in support of the farmers.”

It is clear to many on the ground that without Sidhana and panthic youth the movement lacks the energy and force it could otherwise have. Now it is up to farm unions to decide if they are ready for unity once again. 

Update: On the ocassion of Bhagat Singh’s Martyr’s Day, Farm unions held a rally at Khatkar Kalan village of Nawashahr district.

Bhai Hardeep Singh Mehraj who is close to Lakha attended the rally. While addressing the farmers he said, “Physically all of us have united, but now we need to unite on the level of opinions.  Our struggle is incomplete until  youngsters, women, and farm unions unite."

He appealed that the farm unions should announce a new program according to the wishes of the people and all of Punjab will stand by them.

“Within the upcoming days we will hold a rally in the Doaba area of  Punjab, Lakha will address the farmers,” he added before Lakha Sidhana Zindabad slogans were raised.

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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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