Farmer organizations protesting against farm laws have refused to acknowledge the summons issued to their members by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) which has summoned around 40 persons for investigation as witnesses in a case related to the Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) under section 160 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
Baldev Singh Sirsa, a farmer leader and head of the Lok Bhalai Insaf Welfare Society, told The Federal that he did not appear before the agency on January 17. “The Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) has decided that its members will not respond to the NIA’s call and will not appear before it. I will stand by SKM and will not appear before NIA in future as well,” he said.
In a statement, the SKM said, “The issue of NIA notices was raised with the government in the last meeting. The ministers had said they would look into the concerns. Despite that people have received NIA notices. This is shameful. We will take legal action in the matter in the coming days.”
Darshan Pal, president of Krantikari Kisan Union, alleged that the NIA was filing cases against those who were part of the agitation or supporting it. “All farm unions condemn this. We have decided that the members who are part of this agitation won’t appear before NIA. We will talk to lawyers and will take legal actions as well.”
Apart from Sirsa, Punjabi actor Deep Sidhu and Karnail Singh of Hoshiarpur district were slated to appear before the NIA on Sunday, but they did not. The NIA has also rescheduled the appearance of at least two persons. A Jalandhar-based writer and commentator Balwinderpal Singh, who was to appear before the NIA on Monday, had informed NIA that he was still recovering from Covid-19 infection. The NIA informed him that he would be sent another notice when he is fit to appear.
Former leader of Akal Takht Jasbir Singh Rode’s appearance was also rescheduled from Monday to January 21, after he questioned the short notice for appearance. On Saturday, Bhartiya Kisan Union (Rajewal) president Balbir Singh Rajewal had stated that those put on notice by the NIA should not appear before the central agency. He termed the NIA notices as “government harassment.”
He told The Federal: “No farmers or farmer leaders who are connected with the farmers’ protest will appear before the NIA. There are international organizations which are arranging rations, langars, medical support and various other things for us. The government wants them to stop doing that and weaken the protest. This is simply a harassment tactic but we will not bend.”
However, some activists of Sikh outfits have decided to oblige the agency. Paramjit Singh Akali and Palwinder Singh Amarkot, members of Sikh Youth of Power of Punjab, left for New Delhi to join the probe. “We were called as ‘witnesses’ in a case registered against someone. We have no problem in clarifying our stance. I will join the probe on January 19 whereas Amarkot would face NIA on January 18,” Akali told the media.
The NIA has summoned union leaders, journalists and others supporting the farmers’ protest in Delhi. ‘Khalsa Aid’, an international non-government organization, was also summoned by the NIA. “We are deeply concerned to learn of the summons being issued by the NIA to individuals involved in the farmers’ protest, ranging from bus drivers to union leaders, being investigated for being ‘anti-national’ and supporting terrorism. Our Khalsa Aid India team on the ground has also been summoned and its members are being questioned/investigated,” said Khalsa Aid in a statement.
“A large-scale indiscriminate NIA investigation of this nature against voluntary agencies, groups and individuals who provide humanitarian support is unprecedented in Indian history. We urge all international bodies and monitoring agencies to hold India to account on what appears on the face of it a politically motivated step,” Khalsa Aid added.
The NIA had issued summons to over 40 people associated with farmers’ protests on January 16 in connection with an FIR registered against US-based outfit SFJ — a pro-Khalistani organization based in the US.