Mohali: Deep Sidhu – against whom Delhi Police has announced a cash reward of Rs 1 lakh – has been releasing videos on his social media to allege that farmers’ unions have framed them.
Sidhu, along with Lakha Sidhana, has been accused of allegedly conspiring to hoist the Nishan Sahib at the Red Fort on January 26. Sidhana too has been posting similar videos.
The Delhi Police reward for information also extends to Jugraj Singh, the young Sikh man accused of climbing the pole to hoist the Nishan Sahib.
Sidhu has also said that he has dirt on farmers’ union leaders which he will share when the “right time” comes. According to Sidhu, the union leaders had been making many provocative speeches from the stages at the protest sites in the run up to the January 26 tractor rally.
On the day of the tractor rally, at the Red Fort, a group of protesters hoisted the Sikh religious flag along with the farmers’ union flag on a pole just below the tricolour flying atop the main dome of the Red Fort building. A section of farmers at the site itself made their disapproval quite apparent and urged protesters to come down from the poles and ramparts.
Videos of actor Deep Sidhu at the Red Fort urging protests to hoist the Nishan Sahib went viral.
The farmers’ unions accused him of being a tout of the government and acting at the behest of the BJP to malign the farmers’ movement. The unions also questioned the intentions of the Delhi Police for not being able to control the situation. According to agitating unions, the Delhi Police gave a free pass to Deep Sidhu and other ‘miscreants’.
Sikh activists associated with the movement had said that they were unapologetic about the fact that the Nishan Sahib was hoisted. They blamed farmers’ unions for making Deep Sidhu a scapegoat. Many have been critical of the farmers’ unions for being too afraid to take a stand on the issue of the Nishan Sahib. Sikh activists also asked that if Sidhu was a BJP tout then why was an NIA investigation against him initiated in the early days of January.
The debate over whether the Nishan Sahib flag hoisting at the Red Fort was a conspiracy by the BJP continues. The Delhi Police is chasing the perpetrators and the farmers’ unions have distanced themselves from actor Deep Sidhu. In fact, In the earlier days of the movement itself, farmers’ unions had sought to disassociate themselves from the actor, soon after his controversial remarks about Sikh militant Bhindranwale given to a media outlet went viral.
‘How can you blame me?’
On the run, Sidhu has been releasing videos with clips of farmers’ unions leaders’ who did not stand united in the face of backlash against the movement. In a video released on Wednesday, Sidhu said that he has evidence to prove that he did not instigate the mob which gathered at the Red Fort.
“There were lakhs of people at the Red Fort. How can you blame me for instigating them? Can I, a single human being, mobilise so many people,” he said in the video.
He also said that those who are framing him today have forgotten how the Nishan Sahib is an integral part of the farmers’ struggle. He said that those who have a problem with the Nishan Sahib’s symbolic hoisting at the Red Fort, must remove the flag from the tractors and trolleys at the ongoing morcha as well. “Have you forgotten that Baba Banda Singh Bahadur helped you win land rights by carrying the same Nishan Sahib flying high?” he said.
In another video released on February 2, Sidhu said that people have failed to understand how mass movements are led. He underlines the diversity in the movement to say that not one ideology or not one person can lead a movement. People from all ideologies come together but they must stick together and not blame each other, he said.
Similarly, Lakha Sidhana released a video and said that people were trying to call him a ‘traitor’. He said: “I will be silent on these allegations because my focus is the morcha.” In his video, he also urged young people to not back off from protests now. He gave a call to everyone to join the movement in large numbers.
Speaking to The Wire, Rakesh Kumar of Bharatiya Kisan Union Haryana said that Sidhu is releasing all these videos to save himself. “He has realised that he did the wrong thing. Now he is releasing all these videos to save himself. He must come out and clearly state who instigated him to do this. If the farmers’ unions did, then he must name who amongst us are responsible.”
Meanwhile, according to the Indian Express, the panchayat of Deep Sidhu’s ancestral village of Udekaran in Muktsar passed a resolution in his support and warned people against calling him a traitor. Udekaran Sarpanch Manga Singh told the newspaper: “Our panchayat has passed a resolution in support of Deep Sidhu. We are with him. He is not a traitor. I have never met him but his extended family still lives in the village.”
The Panchayat of Jugraj’s Singh’s village who climbed the pole to house the flag have also come out in support of him. Jugraj is in hiding from the police and his parents have also moved to an unknown location following harassment by the police.
“Jugraj had no bad intention. He used to climb up Nishan Sahib pole in village gurdwara. Others were also trying to climb Nishan Sahib but they couldn’t climb. It was an easy job for Jugraj. So he did it. He hoisted Nishan Sahib. It was not the Khalistan flag. Village sympathy is with family. There is no anger against the family in the village,” village Sarpanch Sukhpreet Singh told the Indian Express.
Raids and arrests
In addition to the cash reward for information of Deep Sidhu and other youngsters, the Delhi Police is conducting raids in Punjab and New Delhi to look for those who participated in the clashes that took place during the tractor rally. On January 30, the Delhi Police raided the home of Amarinderpal Singh at Jalandhar’s Basti Bawa Khel area in Punjab.
Speaking to The Wire, the DCP of Jalandhar Police, Gurmeet Singh, said that to trace Navpreet Singh – one of the youths present with along with Jugraj Singh who hoisted the Nishan Sahib atop a pole at the Red Fort – the Delhi Police raided Navpreet’s relative, Amarinderpal Singh’s home.
Reportedly, police have released the names of four men – Jajbir Singh, Buta Singh, Sukhdev Singh and Iqbal Singh – and announced a reward of Rs 50,000 for information on them. Till date, Delhi police has registered 44 FIRs in connection with the clashes on January 26 and have arrested a total of 122 persons. Farmers’ unions have alleged that among those who have been arrested, many are innocent and were only following the set route.
At a press conference this week, the Saamyukta Kisan Morcha – the front leading the protests – said that even innocent protesters were being framed by the government. The tractors and cars of those who were protesting have also been seized.
The SKM, along with the Congress, the Shiromani Akali Dal, the Delhi Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee and the Punjab Human Rights Commission has lent free legal support to those who have been arrested.