Punjab Police arrest several farm leaders hours before PM Modi’s rallies in Gurdaspur, Jalandhar : The Tribune India

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Punjab Police arrest several farm leaders hours before PM Modi’s rallies in Gurdaspur, Jalandhar

Raids were conducted late Thursday night and in the wee hours of Friday

Punjab Police arrest several farm leaders hours before PM Modi’s rallies in Gurdaspur, Jalandhar

Kulwinder Singh Machiana, district president of BKU Ekta Sidhpur, at his house from where he was arrested on Friday morning. Tribune photo



Tribune News Service

Ravi Dhaliwal/ Aparna Banerji

Gurdaspur/Jalandhar, May 24

Barely hours before Prime Minister Narendra Modi two rallies in Punjab, police raided houses and hideouts of half a dozen farm leaders in Gurdaspur and Jalandhar--across Nurmahal, Phillaur-- and arrested a few of them.

Prime Minister Narandra Modi is scheduled to address a public meeting one in Gurdaspur at 3.30 pm and another in Jalandhar at 5.30 pm.

Peasants, like they did in Patiala yesterday, have threatened that they will not only disrupt the PM’s visit but have also decided to show black flags when he drives from the helipad to the rally venue, a distance of three kilometers.

In Gurdaspur, acting on specific tip-offs, the cops raided the residences of Sukhdev Singh Bhojraj, a member of the Kissan and Jawan Bhalai Morcha, Tarlok Singh and Satbir Singh Sultani, President and general Secretary of the of the Gurdaspur unit of the Kirti Kisan Union and trade union leader Makhan Kohar.

The raids were conducted late Thursday night and in the wee hours of Friday.

No arrests have been made yet as the leaders, anticipating police action, had already left their houses. The leaders were kept abreast by their informers in the police, following which they managed to escape.

DIG (Border) Rakesh Kaushal, however, maintained that no raids were conducted. “We have opened channels of communication with the farm leaders and are negotiating with them to call off their protests,” he said. 

There have been rumours since morning that Sarwan Singh Pandher, Coordinator of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, will be arriving in the city shortly. This, however, was denied by a senior police officer.

Throughout the day yesterday, the farm unions held secret meetings at undisclosed locations planning their next course of action.

The 3 km stretch of road leading from the helipad to the rally site is being heavily guarded.

SSPs of the adjoining police districts of Batala, Pathankot, Hoshiarpur and Amritsar (Rural) are doing duty at the PM’s venue.

“We fail to understand as to why the police are trying to arrest us? We have already made it clear that we will protest peacefully," said a senior leader.

Later in the day, two dozen farmers who arrived at Gurdaspur railway station from Amritsar were held and taken to a nearby police station. Also, 52 farmers, arrested from Paniyar village focal point, were taken to an undisclosed destination.

In Jalandhar and its periphery, at least half a dozen farm leaders have been detained by the police in early morning crackdowns amidst calls by farmer leaders to hold black flag protests ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally in Jalandhar later today.

While several of the leaders were let off with conditions not to cross over to Jalandhar, others remain under house arrest. A massive police crackdown was launched against farmers leaders under the SKM (non political) since early this morning. Some leaders were detained at homes in wee hours and others taken to police station.

Raids were held at homes of farm leaders across Jalandhar, Nurmahal, Phillaur, Phagwara and other areas. Meanwhile, a procession of farmers, including Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee leaders (who for the protest returned from the Shambhu and Khanauri morchas) along with local farmers have also been stopped at Nakodar, as they were heading to Jalandhar. 

Those presently under police detention include leaders from the BKU Ekta Sidhpur – Jalandhar district president Kulwinder Singh Machian and general secretary Paramjit Singh, BKU Doaba leader Jasbir Singh Bara Pind, BKU Qadian leader Amrik Singh, among others.

While BKU Doaba president Manjit Singh Rai and unions leaders Satnam Singh Sahni and Pala Mauli had been arrested this morning, they were let off a while ago on the condition not to march to Jalandhar and not to cross Phagwara. 

Police also raided the residences of the leaders of Pendu Mazdoor Union, Kirti Kisan Union but they left their homes earlier than the police arrived, anticipating police action.

Many of the leaders already left homes early morning or last evening and switched off their mobile phones to evade arrests.

BKU Doaba President Manjit Singh Rai said, “I had left my home and shifted to my farm at Pur Hira early on, anticipating the action. However, police traced me through my mobile phone and I was arrested from near the Mehtiana village this morning. There, I was taken to my house at Pur Hira and placed under house arrest for four hours. At least, six police vehicles and several cops on a motorbike chased me. The police let me off on condition not to march to Jalandhar and hold protest at Phagwara. But we will march as far as we can. Protestors will be gathering at the Phagwara Dana Mandi at about 2 pm from where the march will start.”

Union members Satnam Singh Sahni and Palla Mauli (Mauli had been arrested from his house at 4.30 am) were also let off a short while later.  In a video released by Rai, over 10 cops and two cars and several bikes can be seen at his farm in the fields. Earlier, this morning, BKU Ekta Sidhpur Jalandhar President Kulwinder Singh Machiana was arrested from his house and was taken to the Jandiala police station where he remains under detention. The union's district general secretary has also been arrested. Police has also been deputed outside the house of Kirti Kisan Union district president Santokh Singh Sandhu who had left his house already.       

In its call to hold protests today, the SKM (non political) had stated that farmers from Jalandhar, Kartarpur, Nakodar, Phagwara, Hoshiarpur and other areas would be marching towards the PM’s rally venue at between 2 to 3 pm with black flags ahead of the PM’s rally.

Upset over the treatment given to them ahead of PM Narendra Modi's visit to Jalandhar, the farmers have expressed disappointment with the Punjab government too. 

"Punjab sarkar vi naal hi rali hoyi hai,” Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) (Doaba) President Manjit Rai blamed the state government for doing anything. Rai is one of the leaders who was detained by the police today. 

He said, "First we were stopped to go to Delhi and now we cannot even move in our own space. Raising questions is our right and the government is robbing us of our rights," he added. 

Satnam Singh Sahni, another farmer leader from BKU (Doaba) said that they wanted to protest peacefully, still, they were treated in this manner. "I was detained since early morning and later released. What kind of behaviour is this. It was not expected at all," he said. 

President of Mahila Kisan Union Rajwinder Kaur was also put under house arrest today. She along with other members of the Mahila Kisan Union were supposed to go to the prime minister’s rally to hold protest by holding black flags.

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