Chandigarh: Actor-turned-activist Deep Sidhu has been barred from speaking on the official stage of 31 farmer organisations, spearheading the protest against the Centre’s farm laws in Singhu at Delhi-Haryana border.
The move comes in the wake of allegations that Sidhu was espousing the cause of Khalistan under the garb of standing up for the protesting farmers. Sidhu also courted controversy after he aired his views in support of slain Sikh militant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.
Apart from Sidhu, the farmer organisations have announced that former gangster-turned-activist Lakha Sidhana, a close associate of Sidhu, will also be not allowed to speak from their stage. The farmers’ organisation announced the decision Monday from the stage at the Singhu border.
On Wednesday, Congress MP from Ludhiana Ravneet Bittu said Khalistani elements were trying to hijack the farmers’ agitation and Union Home Minister Amit Shah should act quickly to resolve the situation.
ThePrint called Sidhu for a comment, but his phone was switched off.
Sidhu caught national attention during the farmers’ protests when a video of his conversation with a police personnel in Haryana went viral. It, however, invited a lot of trolling on social media after he was misidentified as an English-speaking farmer.
In an interview to ThePrint earlier, Sidhu had said he has been forced to talk on the farmers’ issues to clear misconceptions. He also asserted that the protests were no place for Khalistani sentiment.
Although Sidhu was barred from speaking on stage, he spent some time at the Singhu border protest site Wednesday and also went live on his Facebook page during a late evening interaction with the agitating farmers.
Sidhu mobilised youth
Sidhu, who has acted in films like Ramta Jogi and Jora Dus Numbria, is known to engage his followers on social media over several issues through his Facebook page.
He jumped onto the farmers’ cause on 21 September, four days before the farmers unions had planned a ‘chakka jam’ across Punjab and Haryana up to Delhi. Through a series of videos, Sidhu mobilised his supporters to reach the Shambhu border between Punjab and Haryana for the protest.
“Sidhu was able to mobilise some youth during the ‘chakka jam’ as also did several other Punjabi artists. At the Singhu morcha also, we allowed him on stage once, but we soon realised that he was diverting the attention away from the farmers’ cause. This agitation is not about Khalistan. We have nothing to do with radical thought. We are here to talk about farmers and our future, so he was banned along with Sidhana,” Gurmeet Singh Bhattiwala, vice-president of Bharatiya Kisan Union (Dakaunda), told ThePrint.
Claiming to support the farmers, Sidhu had started a permanent sit-in protest at the Shambhu border on 4 October, which continued till the agitation reached Delhi on 27 November.
SAD (Amritsar) questions ban
The ban on Sidhu has, however, been vociferously opposed by Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), headed by former MP Simranjit Singh Mann, a well-known Khalistan ideologue.
The organisation’s general secretary Jaskaran Singh Kahan Singhwala, who is camping at the Burari ground with his supporters, uploaded a video on Facebook on 1 December in Sidhu’s support.
Referring to the farmers’ protest as “comrada da morcha” (protest of the comrades), he said: “Why are you stopping Deep Sidhu and Lakha Sidhana from speaking from your stage? You want all the credit. Don’t worry we will give you credit. Simranjit Singh Mann saab will give all of you a gold medal.”
SAD (Amritsar) too started a permanent sit-in at the Shambhu border in the last week of September, barely 200 metres from Sidhu’s protest site, but the protesters were removed Thursday by the Patiala police.
Singhwala had courted controversy when he was seen in a video saying, “Indira thok di, Modi ki chhati par ”, which was quoted by BJP IT cell in-charge Amit Malviya to claim that there was a Khalistani agenda behind the farmers’ protest.
Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards on 31 October 1984, when the Khalistani insurgency was on in Punjab. The assassination followed the Operation Bluestar siege on the Golden Temple — which led to the killing of Khalistani insurgent Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale — that took place four months earlier.
Singhwala told ThePrint his organisation was being treated like “untouchables” by the farmer unions. “If we are all farmers, then we should be allowed to speak on their stage,” he said.
BKU’s Bhattiwala, however, said no political organisation, including Mann’s, has been allowed to speak on their stage. “It is a decision taken for every political party,” he said.