Amid the farmers’ protest against the government to revoke three farm bills, a group of farmers, the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) (Ugrahan) at Tikri Border has also demanded the release of jailed intellectuals, human rights activists, poets, student leaders, including Varavara Rao, Sudha Bhardwaj, Gautam Navlakha, Umar Khalid and others.
BKU (Ugrahan) president Joginder Singh said that their union has been asking for the release of the activists jailed under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. He said, “Those activists have been jailed just because they spoke out against the government for the rights of the poor and vulnerable groups. They should not be in jail.”
However, Samyukt Kisan Union (SKU), a union of more than 32 demonstrating groups has jointly said that this is not the demand of farmers and farmers’ leaders but only the demand of a certain group.
The Haryana Bhartiya Kisan Union president Gurnam Singh Chaduni, who is a part of the SKU, told The Federal, “The demand for the release of activists is not the demands made by SKU. This can be the concern of one or two groups but our protest is completely against the farm bills and is farmers related. We are not making any political demands.”
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He added, “The government and a part of media are continuously trying to defame and demean our protest but I want to tell them that we are united. They cannot break our unity and farmers will continue to sit here till the demands are met. The media are still using words like Khalistani, urban Naxals, tukde tukde gang for us and the government is also trying to build the same narrative, but they will not be successful.”
The BKU (Ugrahan) also released a statement about why they demanded the release of intellectuals. The statement said that they supported intellectuals just to show that whoever speaks against the government has either been jailed or labelled as anti-national which happened with them as well.
Those people who have been jailed are poets, artists, students or activists and their mistake is that they helped poor people, the statement added.
Shingara Singh Mann, secretary, BKU (Ugrahan), said that they have staged a protest against the government for putting activists behind bars. “Like us, those people also protested against the Modi government and just because of that they have been jailed. They talked about the rights of people much before than us. We demanded the release of such activists.”
However, this may not be the official demand of the SKU as it is formed to talk about the farmers and their issues but this is what the BKU (Ugrahan) demands. There are no miscreants, and we are cautious about the entry of such people into the protest, he added.
The BKU (Ugrahan) president Joginder Singh said that all the unions are united and they are abiding by the SKU and no one can break the unity of farmers.
Union railways, food and consumer affairs minister Piyush Goyal said that the farmers’ protest is being misused by some “Leftist, Maoist, anti-social elements.” He tweeted, “People of India are watching, seeing what is happening, observing how across the country Leftist-Maoists are not finding any support and therefore they are trying to hijack this farmers’ agitation and trying misuse this platform for their own agenda.”
Govt is ready to discuss all the concerns of farmers.
Unfortunately, it seems that certain Leftist, Maoist elements have taken control of the agitation, and rather than discussing on farmer issues, they seem to be having some other hidden agendas. pic.twitter.com/TynARHA4GL
— Piyush Goyal (@PiyushGoyal) December 12, 2020
On Goyal’s tweet, the BKU national spokesperson Rakesh Tikait said protesting farmers have no idea of any such stray element in their protest. Central intelligence agencies should catch them, he said. “Central Intelligence should catch them. If people of a banned organisation are roaming amid us, put them behind bars. We haven’t found any such person here, if we do, then we’ll send them away,” Tikait told news agency ANI.
However, Lakhwinder Singh, a farmers’ leader and a part of the SKU, said that everyone is here to save the farmers. He said, “Farmers come first and we don’t want to go in any political direction. We are only talking about the issues of farmers in this protest. I want to assure you that every single farmer in this protest is attentive and no farmer will be found in support of miscreants. We will also not let anyone use our protest as their protest. It is purely farmers’ protest.”