Parties unanimous in need to sink all political differences in this hour of crisis, say “Politics can wait”
A rare and complete unanimity prevailed at the all-party meeting convened by Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on the need to sink all political differences to stand unitedly with the farmers in their fight against the black Farm Laws, with the message that “we are all together in this battle.” The meeting saw a host of suggestions come from participants of all parties, ranging from independent probe into the Red Fort violence, joint meeting with the Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister seeking their intervention for the resolution of the crisis, appointment of a state observer at Delhi borders, and joining the farmers at the protest site without making a political statement, among others.
The meeting was boycotted by the BJP but attended by Congress, AAP, SAD, Lok Insaaf Party, SAD Democratic Party, BSP, CPI and CPI (M), as also AAP, which, however, walked out at the fag end over their unrealistic demand for sending out Punjab Police to Delhi borders for providing security to farmers. The meeting started with a 2-minute silence in remembrance of those who had died during the agitation so far. As of date, 88 farmers from Punjab had reportedly lost their lives in these protests, said the Chief Minister.
Underlining the need for unanimity against the “big conspiracy hatched against Punjab”, PPCC president Sunil Jakhar pointed out that whenever Punjab has been faced with any challenge, external or internal, everyone has stood together to counter it. “Our political differences will stay, but in these testing times, we all need to come together again,” he said, terming as unfortunate BJP’s decision to boycott the meeting, where it should have put forth its view-point. He recalled that Punjab Vidhan Sabha had unanimously passed a Resolution rejecting the Farm Laws and all parties had accompanied the Chief Minister to the Governor.
Jakhar hit out at the central government over the situation prevailing at the Delhi borders, pointing to pictures that have appeared today in the media, of Delhi Police personnel standing with steel rods, armed protectors, cemented blockade and spikes. Terming the images as appalling, he said these pictures were reminiscent of Chinese troops standing at Galwan Valley. What happened at Red Fort was condemnable but it has to be investigated properly to identify and expose those responsible for the violence and for bringing a bad name to the farmers’ agitation, he said. He also lashed out at the Government of India over the name-calling, which had started from the first day of the agitation with farmers being called hooligans, terrorists, Khalistanis and anti-nationals.
Jakhar slammed the central government, which had falsely accused Punjab of firing guns from the farmers’ shoulders, for being responsible for firing at Punjab with guns on their shoulders, through economic blockade, suspension of rail services, stoppage of RDF etc. Punjab suffered Rs 36000 crores in losses due to the agitation, he added. Complimenting the farmers for their peaceful agitation, which even the Supreme Court had appreciated, Jakhar said the protests that had been going on since the Ordinances were issued had now taken the form of a tsunami and had reached the Delhi borders.
Jakhar ridiculed the Sangh Parivar for raising a hue and cry over the Nishan Sahib at Red Fort, alleging that RSS, which did not allow the national flag to fly over their headquarters for decades, was raising a ruckus now with the sole purpose of alienating Punjab. The PPCC president called upon all parties to unite to save the interests of the farmers from the Farm Laws, which were guided by the spirit of the Shanta Kumar committee, observing that Union Minister Nitin Gadkari had also termed MSP the biggest burden on the country’s economy. Calling for repeal of the Farm Laws and the safe return home of the farmers, he said “we have to send a message to the country that Punjab is together”, with a strategy to politically isolate BJP.
Endorsing the views of Jakhar, Bhagwant Mann of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) said the way the barricades had been put up and roads dug up at the Delhi borders, it seemed that Punjab’s borders were sitting across a hostile border, with Haryana trying to stop some enemy. Everything was being done to prevent farmers from exercising their democratic rights, he said. Mann said the Red Fort violence seemed to have been pre-planned, considering that the high-security monument appeared to have been left unattended by security forces, with a large media contingent already there.
The AAP leader suggested that representatives of all Punjab parties should jointly go and meet the Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister to collectively put pressure on them as the issue cannot be resolved without their intervention. A joint high-powered committee should be set up to represent Punjab, he said, adding that “we can do our politics later” as the farmers need support of all at this juncture. They need a leader, they need a captain right now to steer the battle, he added.
Stressing the need to stop indulging in blame game and to rise above political affiliations to fight together for the farmers in this hour of crisis, Mann further suggested that the Punjab government should set up an office in Delhi to coordinate and help these protesting farmers, who should not be left alone. He urged all parties to ask their MPs to collectively oppose the Farm Laws within and outside Parliament House. AAP’s Aman Arora suggested that Punjab should start procuring like Kerala, while Harpal Cheema said if Prime Minister does not give time for a meeting then they should all go and stage a dharna at his residence.
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Prem Singh Chandumajra was of the opinion that an independent commission should be set up, under a retired judge, to expose the entire conspiracy behind the Red Fort violence on Republic Day, which could not simply be dismissed as the act of some miscreants. The role of the police, who beat up farmers, should also be probed, he further said, adding that if the central government does not set up such a commission, then the Punjab government should do it. He also suggested a symbolic all-party protest in Delhi, and waiver by the state government of all loans of families that have lost their kin in this agitation.
Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal of SAD echoed his party colleague’s sentiments to stress that the deadlock between the Center and the farmers has to be broken. Dilution or erosion of the federal structure cannot be allowed, he said, adding that despite withdrawal of consent from CBI by Punjab, godowns were recently raided by the agency without informing the state government. His party colleague Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa also lamented the systematic attempt to weaken the federal structure of the nation, which remains the biggest threat even when the Farm Laws issue is resolved.
Noting that the BJP government at the Centre was pushing Punjab to the edge, Sukhpal Singh Khaira (Punjab Ekta Party) wanted the state government to appoint an observer at the Delhi border, and called for an inquiry by Delhi government into the R-day violence. Simranjit Singh Bains of Lok Insaaf Party stressed the need for ceasefire among all parties, pointing out that “when farmer unions can sink their difference and unite, why can’t we?” All party representatives should go and sit at Delhi border, without even getting on to the stage, as a morale booster for the farmers, he added. He was also in favour of meeting the Prime Minister and the Home Minister, while advocating some control on the media to stop them from spreading hatred against Punjab and Punjabis.
At the outset, after the Chief Minister’s brief opening remarks, the State Agriculture Secretary spoke about the damage that the Farm Laws would cause to the farmers and Punjab’s agriculture system, and detailed the steps taken by the state government to negate the same, including the Amendment Laws passed in the Vidhan Sabha. The Chief Minister has also been repeatedly writing to the Prime Minister on the issue, he said, pointing out that the state cabinet had also passed a resolution objecting to the laws and demanding their repeal. The laws passed by the Centre are against the country’s federal structure, and the amendments passed by the Punjab Vidhan Sabha are constitutionally valid, he added.
Jasvir Singh Garhi of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) extended his party’s unequivocal support to the Resolution placed before all the parties. CPI’s Comrade Bant Singh underlined the historic significance of the farmers’ struggle and said all Punjabis should come together to support those agitating against black laws to send a strong message to the Centre. Comrade Sukhwinder Singh of CPI (M) said the Centre is targetting all opposition parties, thus necessitating a collective pushback. They want to create a Hindu Rashtra by trampling over all constitutional values, he said, adding that the real motive of the Farm Laws is to destroy the agriculture under pressure from WTO. Some of the speakers made specific mention of Rakesh Tikait’s role in the agitation, noting that his tears had lent strength to the stir, which had received a setback after the R-day events.