400 farmers arrested ahead of Tapa rally
Bathinda, June 9
Fearing arrest, about 200 farmer leaders have gone underground and are chalking out a strategy to surface in Tapa Mandi tomorrow. Sources said there was an altercation between the farmers and commission agents over the money transaction of a farmer hailing from Dhilwa village. The Bharatiya Kisan Union (Sidhupur) had announced to hold a rally in Tapa Mandi to seek justice in the matter. The sources said the police was making all efforts to prevent the farmers from Mansa and Bathinda from reaching the protest venue.
The senior vice-president of the union, Ruldu Singh Mansa, told The Tribune that they would organise the rally at all costs. He said if the police tried to stop the farmers, they would sit on roads at those points only. He termed the police action as an “attack on their democratic rights”. The sources said the police had arrested about 42 leaders of the Sidhupur group, the Ugraha group, and a few other groups.
Those arrested included the general secretary of the union, Mr Buta Singh Burjgill, the state president of the BKU (Krantikari), Surjit Singh Phul, the district general secretary of the Ugraha group, Singara Singh Mann, senior leader of the Sangat block, Jarnail Singh, and Thana Singh. The sources said 50 farmer leaders from Mansa, 70 from Sangrur, 15 from Muktsar, and 18 from Moga, had been arrested. Interestingly, the villagers of Bhagsar village managed to get their leader Gurditta Singh freed from the police.
The sources said the police had sealed the villages of various union leaders. Police posts had also been set up on the district borders of Bathinda, Mansa, Sangrur, and Moga. The Ugraha group had also declared its support for the rally being organised by the Sidhupur group. The general secretary of the Ugraha group, Sukhdev Singh Kokri, said they would hold protest rallies in villages tomorrow instead of attending the main rally. He alleged that the police was openly favouring commission agents. He said the farmers would not bow before injustice. Unconfirmed reports said the police had also picked up farmers who had nothing to do with the rally.
A few months after the Chathewal incident farmers and commission agents are again at loggerheads. Though the IGP, Bathinda zone, Mr Rajinder Singh, has taken an initiative to settle the disputes among farmers and commission agents, it remains to be seen how far it would succeed.
The SSP, Mr Kapil Dev, said the police force had already been deployed at the protest venue and about 35 preventive arrests had been made. He said check posts had also been set up in the wake of the rally.