As BJP leaders in Punjab’s Bathinda, Kotkapura, Fazilka and Jalandhar watched live screening of PM Narendra Modi’s interaction with farmers Friday, the events in these districts faced protests by agitating farmers.
In Bathinda, a group of farmers on Friday ransacked the venue of the event leaving at least five party workers injured, police said. However, some farmers at the venue claimed anti-social elements and not peasants were behind the incident. The event in Bathinda had to be wrapped up within 15 minutes of its start.
Police had to resort to lathi-charge outside the house of senior BJP leader Manoranjan Kalia in Jalandhar during the screening programme.
Nearly four farmers were injured during the police action. The Kotkapura programme ended within 30 minutes as farmers arrived raising slogans against the BJP. In Fazilka, farmers showed black flags to party leaders Surjit Kumar Jyani.
The BJP event in Bathinda’s Ram Chandra Market on Amrik Singh road was disrupted as protesters entered the venue raising slogans.
BJP district president Vinod Kumar Binta said: “We had erected a tent near my office in Ram Chandra Market. We had to celebrate birth anniversary of former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee and also to listen to the PM live. We had just started the programme when farmers came inside the tent and started raising slogans against us, they threw the chairs and even damaged picture of the former PM. We had no choice but to leave the venue. In a democracy, if they have the right to protest, even we have the right to organise any programme in a peaceful manner. I along with other BJP leaders went to the SSP Bathinda and apprised him of the matter. But we haven’t submitted a written complaint yet.”
Binta said that BJP legal cell co-convener Ravinder Gupta was among those who sustained injuries. Gupta, he said, got 22 stitches on the leg. Police rushed to the spot and resorted to mild baton charge to control the situation, BJP leaders said.
Sources said that BJP workers and farmers even raised opposing slogans and manhandled each other. However, cops made the BJP team leave the venue and soon after that their tent was also removed from the place by party workers themselves.
In the video footage of the incident, protesters were seen breaking chairs, throwing BJP flags and raising slogans like ‘Modi Sarkar Murdabad’, ‘Kale Kanoon Radd Karo’.
While police had erected a barricade on the road leading to the venue, members of BKU (Ugrahan) and Dodhi (milkmen) Union, Bathinda unit, came in large numbers at the spot.
Jaspal Singh, block president of BKU (Ugrahan), Bhagta Bhai Ka area, said, “Our members protested and raised slogans, we removed the barricades to reach near the venue but no one of us went inside. Protesters who went inside were not our members as we don’t believe in violence. They must be BJP’s own men only who had joined our protest and later they broke chairs to defame us. However, we will protest against every BJP leader and will not let their programme happen if we come to know. We stated this not once but repeatedly. We are not bothered by police complaints.”
Motha Singh, general secretary of BKU (Ugrahan), Bathinda unit, said, “They intentionally organised a programme on a public place by erecting a tent in order to invite protest. They are creating such situations in Punjab where tension can increase.”
Union workers said that prior to event it was rumoured that BJP leader Harjeet Singh Grewal will attend it. Grewal in the past has spoken in favour of Acts in Delhi. Binta, however, said, ”Grewal is still in Delhi, someone had spread rumour about his visit.”
In Jalandhar, members from BKU (Rajewal) protested outside the house of former Punjab Minister Manoranjan Kalia. As they tried to break barricades, police used force due to which about four farmers sustained mild injuries. Turbans of some farmers were tossed and fell down during the scuffle with police personnel while trying to break barricades.
The union staged protest at the three places in the city against the BJP and also gheraoed the main office of the party.
BKU (Rajewal) general secretary, Kulwinder Singh, said that they will not tolerate excessive use of force used by the Punjab Police.
DCP (law and order) Balkar Singh said that police was only doing what it needed to do to maintain law and order. He denied excessive force being used.
In Kotkapura in Faridkot district, the day’s event was organised at the Aggarwal Dharamshala. Sunita Garg, general secretary of Punjab BJP, had organised the programme. Following sloganeering again by BKU (Ugrahan) members, Garg along with others had to be taken out of the venue.
Police used mild force to disperse the protesters as well. Garg said, “Why can’t we peacefully pay tributes to the former PM Atal Bihar Vajpayee and also to listen to our PM.”
When asked that farmers for whom she was speaking were protesting outside the venue, she said,”They were not the farmers but SAD, Congress and AAP workers holding union flags. They are trying to create unrest in Punjab due to which people have forgotten the real issues like deaths due to illicit liquor, mining mafia etc. For the past 3 months dharna has been organised outside my house as well. As we knew that they were SAD, Congress workers, we burnt effigies of Sukhbir Badal and Capt Amarinder Singh near my house to lodge our protest.”
In Fazilka, a programme to celebrate the birth anniversary of the former PM Vajpayee was organised at Shteerwala village where Surjit Kumar Jyani, chairperson of BJP’s 8-member panel to talk to farmers was invited. However, Jyani was shown black flags by farmers. The protesters even argued with Jyani over farm laws.
BJP national general secretary Tarun Chugh said: “Complete anarchy is prevailing in Punjab where law and order is in the hands of goons and police have become a silent and helpless onlooker.”