As Deep Sidhu gets second bail in the Red Fort incident and is expected to come out on bail, farmer unions stand more divided than ever in the fight against Centre to repeal three farm laws.
On April 24, Bhartiya Kisan Union Ugrahan president Joginder Singh Ugrahan made a controversial statement from stage at Tikri border attacking other unions. Besides 16 farmer unions, including that farmer leader Balbir Singh Rajewal, have been holding separate meetings to decide the next course of action.
Earlier this month, farmer unions had to postpone their planned march to Parliament as some unions including BKU Ughrahan opposed the idea.
The faultlines between communist and non-communist farmer unions have also emerged.
Ugrahan said, “There are 32 unions and some of these have double character. They play on both sides. Their role is more of a middle man. They formed a formula of compromise on farm laws.”
He said, “Some unions wanted to go for Parliament march. But we made it very clear that we don’t agree with Parliament march. But those unions who are in favour of Parliament march can go ahead. You claim to have 35 lakh youth. You have Khalistanis with money. Khalistani powers are supporting you. You have the weapons. You should first demolish Parliament and then come to us after repealing laws. If they managed to repeal laws then we will follow them. Otherwise they should fall in line behind us.”
Ugrahan even blamed farmer unions for hidden alliance with BJP.
“Their hidden agenda is to favour BJP and hurt the movement. Is the only purpose of the movement to benefit politicians. Have you come to fail the movement. Sometimes making excuse of langars, medicine, kirtan. Have you come to infiltrate? You defame Sikh religion and then tag us as anti-Sikh. Then you call us comrades,” said Ugrahan, who heads a ultra left farmer body.
In response to such statement, Bhartiya Kisan Union Dalewal said, “Only Joginder Singh Ugrahan can explain why he has given such a statement. There is nothing like that. Some Sikh organisations are serving langar ar protest sites. In same way, farmer unions are also contributing. Ugrahan can explain how he reached to the conclusion about what he said.”
Dalewal’s union is part of 16 unions, which have been holding meetings in Punjab for last two days to decide their next course of action on agitation.
“There were always these groups within 32 unions. There is our group of 16 unions. Then there is another group of 10 unions. BKU Ugrahan works separately,” said Dalewal.
However, it is first time that farmer unions are publicly speaking against each other.
Deep Sidhu and Lakha Sidhana factor
Internal rivalry of farmer unions is complicated by outside factors like Deep Sidhu and Lakha Sidhana.
Both were more like social media influencers with no ground network at the start of farmer agitation last year. However, despite the farmer unions’ efforts to keep both away from protest, Deep Sidhu and Lakha Sidhana have turned stronger over the months, especially after the Red Fort violence.
Both were named in case after Red Fort incident. Deep Sidhu was arrested and was in jail for almost two months. Lakha Sidhana remained on run during this period and still managed to organise a couple of big gatherings and protest marches on his own. He also extended support to Deep Sidhu during these gatherings. Lakha sent protesters from Punjab on Sunday which reached Singhu border on Monday. Delhi police is searching for Lakha. However, he can be often found among group of people.
Deep Sidhu was declared traitor by farmer unions after the Red Fort incident. However, it couldn’t hurt his support base. Deep Sidhu too had no ground network of supporters like farmer unions, but protest marches and rallies were held in his support while he was in jail. Now, it would be important to see how farmer unions and Deep Sidhu engage with each other after he comes out of jail on bail.