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Gurnam Chaduni — Haryana farm leader facing action by unions for reaching out to politicians

Chaduni met Congress & AAP leaders to get them to join hands with the farmers’ agitation, but the protesters have long held that their movement is apolitical.

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Chandigarh: Gurnam Singh Chaduni, one of the top farmer union leaders spearheading the agitation on the outskirts of Delhi, is in trouble for a political outreach that goes against the stated apolitical intent of the movement.

The 60-year-old president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Haryana) is likely to face action for convening a meeting of representatives of opposition parties, ahead of the tractor march planned by the farmer unions on Republic Day — a move seen as a deviation from discipline.

Chaduni, part of the seven member core-committee of the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha that is leading the agitation, had met some Congress and Aam Aadmi Party leaders, among others, Sunday, where it was decided that the opposition will join hands and organise a ‘Jan Sansad’ on 22 and 23 January to support the agitating farmers. The same evening, farmer union leaders formed a committee to decide what action, if any, should be taken against Chaduni.

The next day, Chaduni admitted that he had convened the meeting as an individual and not as part of the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha, the umbrella body spearheading the agitation. He told journalists Monday that he did it to further the cause of the agitation.

“It was being felt that political parties are not doing enough for the movement. There is a committee of prominent social activists which I am a part of, and that committee decided to ask the political parties to hold a Jan Sansad. The political parties are the rulers and they seek votes and if they do something, it is important,” he explained.

However, Jagmohan Singh Patiala, general secretary of BKU (Dakonda), said the agitation had been kept completely apolitical till now, and Chaduni’s move was a breach of that discipline.

“Even if it was to further the cause of the movement, it is not a part of our protest methods. What action is to be initiated against him will be decided by Monday evening,” Patiala told ThePrint.


Also read: How faction-ridden AAP in Punjab is looking to turn farmers’ agitation into an advantage


Who is Chaduni?

Gurnam Singh Chaduni’s BKU has been credited with uniting Haryana’s farmers with those from Punjab, and playing an instrumental role in ensuring that agitators from Punjab were able to pass through Haryana and reach Delhi’s borders.

The man from village Chaduni Jattan in Kurukshetra district, who passed class 9 from a school in Shahabad, was jailed in 1979 following a scuffle in his village. He was booked for attempt to murder and remained in jail for five years.

He founded the BKU (Gurnam), an affiliate of the BKU (Tikait), in 2004, but a few years later, it changed into the independent BKU (Haryana), active in villages in the GT Road belt, where paddy is grown.

Chaduni has led several farmer agitations in Haryana in coordination with farmer leaders of other states, with one of the key issues being non-payment to sugarcane farmers. He has been jailed on more than one occasion. Unlike many other Sikh leaders, Chaduni speaks both Punjabi and Hindi very well.

Political ambitions

Harbouring political ambitions, Chaduni’s BKU (Haryana) aligned with the AAP ahead of the parliamentary elections in 2014. Chaduni was considered to be close to AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal. His wife Balwinder Kaur was announced as the AAP candidate from Kurukshetra, but party workers objected to the move, saying she had neither applied for the ticket nor worked in the area. The collaboration was short-lived.

In the 2019 assembly elections, Chaduni contested from Ladwa as an Independent candidate, but suffered a heavy defeat, garnering only 1,307 votes, compared to winner Mewa Singh’s 57,665 votes for the Congress. Disappointed by the defeat, Chaduni resigned from the BKU but joined it again a few months later.

Ahead of the 2019 elections, Chaduni was facing three cases, all related to farmers’ agitations. Last year, when he started leading the Haryana farmers against the three central farm laws, the Manohar Lal Khattar government slapped numerous cases against him.

In September, he organised a rally in Pipli and gave a call to blockade the state on 28 September, which elicited a huge response and led to an FIR. Then, in November, the Haryana Police booked him again, this time for attempt to murder, after he gave a call to the protesting farmers to dismantle all the barricades on their way from Punjab to Delhi.

The latest case against Chaduni, and 70 others, is for allegedly causing Khattar to cancel his kisan mahapanchayat public meeting in Kaimla village in Karnal. Protestors had vandalised the stage where Khattar was to speak from, and also damaged the helipad.


Also read: The problem Rahul Gandhi has created for Amarinder Singh in Punjab by backing farmer protests


 

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