Chandigarh: On Monday, the 32 farmer unions that had spearheaded the anti-farm laws agitation in Punjab were to gather at Amritsar’s Golden Temple to pay obeisance. But the fault lines between them were evident.
Clear divisions emerged over the question of whether they would contest the upcoming state Assembly elections, as leaders of several farm unions reached the Golden Temple to express gratitude for the success of the movement, but many prominent ones decided to give it a miss.
Some unions even announced their own separate programmes.
Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) Sidhupur, one of the larger farmer bodies of the group, has decided to have a separate ‘shukrana’ (gratitude) march on 17 December. Its members did not attend the congregation Monday.
“We do not want to do everything in a tearing hurry. We returned from Delhi borders just last night. Hundreds of our trolleys were stationed at Tikri and Singhu. We first wanted to accompany them into Punjab to ensure that everyone reaches home safely,” BKU Sidhupur president Jagjeet Singh Dallewal told ThePrint. “We are planning a march on the 17th, starting from Faridkot to the Golden Temple, to pay obeisance.”
Dallewal said his union had made it clear that it will not be participating in the Assembly elections in any way, nor will it support any political party. “If we do, there will be no difference left between us and traditional political parties,” he added.
Baldev Singh Sirsa, president of the Lok Bhalai Insaaf Welfare Society, has joined hands with Dallewal and will be part of the 17 December march. “We are following the same ideology as BKU Sidhupur and will not be participating in these elections in any way,” he told ThePrint.
Other unions are still not clear about what they plan to do. “We are yet to decide. But we will go with the majority opinion on this matter,” Ruldu Singh Mansa, president of the Punjab Kisan Union, told mediapersons in Amritsar Monday.
Kulwant Singh Sandhu, general secretary of the Jamhoori Kisan Sabha, told ThePrint that the 32 unions are expected to meet in the coming days to discuss the question of entering politics. “Only after that meeting can a final decision be taken,” he added.
Buta Singh Burjgill, president of BKU Dakaunda, another of the larger constituents of the group of farmer unions, said leaders of the 32 unions should sit together and reach a consensus on the issue.
“The 32 unions are to meet the Punjab chief minister on 17 December, before which a preliminary meeting will be held and this matter too will be discussed,” added Jagmohan Singh Patiala, general secretary of BKU Dakaunda.
BKU Rajewal president Balbir Singh Rajewal, who was part of the gathering at the Golden Temple, told mediapersons that no decision has been taken regarding his joining politics, despite rumours that he is going to be the Aam Aadmi Party’s CM face.
‘Yet to decide on boycott call for political parties’
BKU Ugrahan and the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (KMSC) — which were working in tandem with the group of 32 unions for the purpose of the agitation — had parted ways last week itself after the agitation ended.
“Our union’s constitution is very clear, we will not support any political party or any candidate. Any member of our union who intends to fight elections will have to leave the union. All through the agitation, we made sure that it remained apolitical. Now if we join politics ourselves, how will we justify the apolitical image of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) which might have to continue with the battle?” asked Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan, general secretary of BKU Ugrahan, while talking to ThePrint Monday.
SKM is the umbrella body of farmers’ unions that led the protests against the farm laws now repealed by the Narendra Modi government.
Kokrikalan added that his union is yet to decide on whether to give a call for the boycott of all political parties in the upcoming elections.
“We have always believed and also raised awareness among farmers that while they face the same issues and common woes, they were deeply divided because of their affiliation or support to different political parties. So while the farmers are united by a common cause, they are divided by politics. If we encourage politics among farmers, we will be guilty of dividing them just like other political parties,” said the BKU Ugrahan leader.
Sarwan Singh Pandher, general secretary of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (KMSC), also gave Monday’s gathering a miss. Instead, he visited the Bangla Sahib and Sis Ganj gurdwaras in Delhi to pay obeisance on behalf of his organisation.
(Edited by Gitanjali Das)