Sandeep Singh: Sidhana Galvanizes Youth At Mehraj Rally In Support Of The Farmers Protest
A month after the January 26 Republic Day Tractor Rally, and Delhi Police’s manhunt, Sidhana made a rare public appearance and spoke to farmers at the Mehraj rally
February 23, 2021 | 5 min. read
He is wanted by the Centre.
He carries an award of one lakh rupees on his head.
Delhi police have launched multiple raids in an attempt to arrest him.
At one point news organizations announced he was apprehended, only for him to later show up on Facebook live to prove he remained free.
Today, on February 23, he came to attend a rally in Mehraj where senior Punjab Police officials and countless police personnel were present - but no one dared to touch him.
Thousands upon thousands gave him a standing ovation when he arrived and when he left on a motorbike after addressing farmers.
In what continues to be an incredible saga, we are talking about none other than Lakha Sidhana.
A month after the January 26 Republic Day Tractor Rally, and Delhi Police’s manhunt, Sidhana made a rare public appearance and spoke to farmers in his home district of Bathinda.
Over capacity crowds turned up to attend the rally which was said to be organized by Punjab’s youth. According to conservative estimates, around 20-25 thousand people turned up for the demonstration.
Mehraj grain market which is spread across nine acres was full of people. Apart from this protestors were sitting on walls of nearby buildings as many could not get a place to sit or stand. Thousands more stood on the roads outside the grounds.
According to the organizers, they had given a call for a rally only a week ago. Baba Hardeep Singh, who played a key role in organizing the demonstration, claimed that it was a huge success.
He said that the rally remained peaceful and non-political. “An MLA from a particular political party had arrived but he sat amongst the people. Neither his name was spoken from stage nor was he allowed to speak.”
This rally stood out as it was well attended by youth and panthic intellectuals. Nishan Sahibs were seen close to the stage and flying high across the grounds - mimicking earlier energy at Singhu Border outside Delhi. Youth had brought langar in trollies and some trollies were parked to be used as dustbins.
Slogans rang loudly when Sidhana arrived at Mehraj. It was clear who those in attendance looked towards for leadership. When others walked to the stage microphone to speak, protestors would cheer that they wanted Sidhana to address them. They were eager to hear him.
Sidhana received the rockstar treatment when he eventually took to the stage. People went crazy. In his usual style, Sidhana started his speech with slogans. He took target at the central government.
“These people came because we posted about the rally on social media. It means people have awakened. When Delhi is putting rewards on the heads of this land’s sons, when it’s issuing photos and jailing people of this land, I want to remind Delhi that these people won’t be intimidated to stop.”
Sidhana reiterated that it is not anyone’s personal struggle, but it is a matter of existence. He added that history only remembers those communities which resist oppression, not the “boot lickers”.
He not only talked about Punjabis but also of the unity between laborers and farmers of the entire country - specifically mentioning three north Indian states.
“Punjabis, Haryanvis, and Rajasthanis have sent a message to Delhi from the land of village Mehraj that the people won’t stop until they win the struggle.”
Sidhana was sure to emphasize that the people stand with the protestors sitting outside Delhi. “We are not holding a separate rally here, we are holding a rally in support of the Delhi morcha”, he said.
A journalist previously put a question to farm union leader Balbir Singh Rajewal on what seems to be attempts from some to distance themselves from the likes of Sidhana, Deep Sidhu, and youth protestors that have been arrested or are facing arrest for their involvement in the farmers’ protest.
Sidhana, in sending a comment directly to Rajewal said, “Rajewal Sahib, in a reply to a question, you said the government should decide the fate of Lakha and Deep, then you continued to say no comment in our support. Well, even your fellow farm leaders have been booked now - and, I want to assure you that if Delhi Police comes to apprehend your leaders Punjab’s youngsters and I will oppose your arrests, and not turn our backs on you.”
In a reference to the ongoing arrests of farmers and criminalizing of dissent, Sidhana refused to budge from his support for the agitation or play coy with his answer.
“The government is playing games by issuing photos and arresting farmers from villages. This is being done to create fear in the minds of people, to put a chill on speaking out. Everyone should make announcements in your villages: if Delhi Police come to your village to arrest anyone, surround them.”
Sidhana, in keeping with themes that came out of the Barnala Maharally, called on Dalits to join the protest in greater numbers.
25-year-old Surinder Singh is landless and a driver by profession. He specifically took leave to attend the Mehraj rally. He drove 125 KM from his hometown of Ludhiana just to see Sidhana.
“Youngsters are the most important. Nothing is possible without youth. Farm leaders should listen to youngsters and avoid commenting about youth icons like Lakha and Deep. Leaders should take a stand for Deep and Lakha which they did not,” he added, “farm unions should come out in support of all the arrested youngsters including Deep Sidhu. They too were the part of the struggle, so farm unions should make all efforts to ensure their release.”
Surinder Singh’s friend, Harkanwaljit Singh, also attended the rally.
“All the farmers at Delhi’s borders are there because of youngsters. If youngsters came back then nothing is possible. Youngsters are a little unhappy. They should be accommodated by unions and given proper representation.”
”We came here in support of Punjab and its youth. Punjab is being treated unfairly by central government”, he added.
Business graduate Satbir Singh scored his desired IELTS band score and has applied for higher education at a Canadian university. He drove 60 KM from his village just to participate in the rally.
“Yesterday I was working in our fields. Today I made up my mind to attend the rally as I thought Lakha need our support as he is fighting for Punjab.”
“Unions raise funds from villages, as they did from ours. But when it came to the issue of arrests of farmers who had gone to the Red Fort area, unions refused to back those youngsters and left them behind”, he shared.
Satbir Singh, like Sidhana in his speec, stressed the need for unity. “Our struggle is bigger than we think. All of us are against big powers like WTO. So all of us need to be united in order to win this struggle.”
The youth have grasped something that they believe union leaders have not. Unity does not mean the silencing of diverse opinions - it means ensuring those voices are also represented in decision making. They have one expectation, which is now up to union leadership to decide. The likes of Sidhana and Sidhu must be supported by the establishment, not cast aside.
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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