Politics

Who Are Deep Sidhu and Lakha Sidhana, and Why Are Farmers' Unions Angry With Them?

Unions have blamed the duo for 'provoking' farmers on Republic Day, and said they are working for the BJP.

Singhu border: On January 25, at around 7 pm, when farmers’ union leaders were busy holding meetings in their tents before the tractor march, Punjabi actor-turned-activist Deep Sidhu, the man at the centre of the controversy of hoisting the Nishan Sahib flag at Red Fort, started addressing the protestors at Singhu border’s main stage.

After occupying the stage, Sidhu began his address, which was confined to Sikh religious history, the tractor march and the importance of Nishan Sahib amidst slogans of ‘Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal’.

Sidhu urged the protesters in Punjabi, “Eh rest karan da sama nahi, barricade todan da sama hai…. Pehla sanu Ring Road de dita, hun mana karde a (This is not the time to rest but to break the barricades… First, they gave us Ring Road, now they have refused).”

No sooner had he made this speech, protestors, even the Nihangs who had been staying right behind the main stage, opposed him and said that they would follow the route announced by the farmers’ union leaders.

Sidhu’s statement led to argument and chaos, after which he was brought down from the stage by organisers while volunteers rushed to inform the farmers’ union leaders.

After this episode, Sidhu again went to the main stage for the second time at around 9:30 pm along with his supporters. This time, he went to justify his stand among the protestors. While Sidhu sat among the crowd below the stage, one of his supporters announced the formation of a five-member committee led by Deep Sidhu.

Amrik Singh (name changed), who heard the speech, said, “Sidhu’s supporter announced the five-member committee, which included Deep Sidhu, Lakha Sidhana, two Nihangs and a fifth person. It was announced that their committee would reach out to the farmers’ union leaders to include them in the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, the umbrella body of 40 farmers’ unions.”

Watch: Cases Filed Against Farmers’ Leaders but Who Is the Real Culprit?

Amrik Singh said that after hearing this, farmers started raising slogans against Deep Sidhu and Lakha Sidhana, a gangster-turned-social activist from Bathinda, who was also present in the crowd. “Hearing this, people started leaving the stage venue, fearing a clash. Within a moment, Deep Sidhu again came on the stage and made an emotional appeal, justifying his stand that he was being defamed by everybody. They left the stage announcing that they were going to meet the farmers’ union leaders,” he said.

Later, Sidhu again went to the main stage at around midnight, where he said, “Today’s night is not the night to sleep… We should be ready to move anytime… Can you decide, where are you supposed to go? Now, you plan to go to Ring Road but this depends on how we want to control it… Protests take their own course…”

Notably, though Deep Sidhu was sidelined by farmers’ union leaders because of his links with the BJP, he kept on trying to gain ground in the protests. Two months ago, when the farmers’ protest began, Sidhu had attempted to address the protestors at Singhu border but facing backlash, he left.

Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan) state secretary Shingara Singh Mann, who is at Tikri border, said, “This is the handiwork of the BJP, else how come at a place like Red Fort, where nothing goes unnoticed, such vandalism took place? Modi government has been using all means to make our agitation fail and they had been leaving no stone unturned to provoke us. They called us ‘Khalistanis’, ‘tukde-tukde gang’, ‘extremists’, ‘Naxalites’, but we remained peaceful. We will continue our protest till these black laws are repealed.”

Many protestors also said that Deep Sidhu and Lakha Sidhana had crossed over to Delhi with their supporters before 9 am. “We saw how Lakha Sidhana was asking the farmers to follow him. The duo had reached Singhu border with the sole intention of creating chaos in the tractor march. Sidhu’s speech is a testimony to this fact,” said Jasbir Singh from Amritsar, who left the tractor march midway and returned to the border before 2 pm.

Farmers’ union leaders blame Delhi Police too

A day after the chaos and vandalism during the tractor march, questions are being raised over the role of Delhi Police. Gurwinder Singh Khangura, president of BKU (Rajewal) from Hoshiarpur district, said, “On January 26, our volunteers had reached Singhu border at 3:15 am, as the police had promised us that they will guide them about the route. But the police didn’t guide anybody, rather directed the protestors on different route. Farmers were new to Delhi roads and had no idea where were they being led. It was clearly a trap to sabotage the farmers’ protest.”

Even BKU president Balbir Singh Rajewal pointed out this fact in his speech at Singhu border January 27. “We had got five routes approved from the Delhi Police. It was decided that we would reach Singhu border at 8 am and begin tractor march by 10 am. But, the members of Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee were made to move even before that. We got to know that police also held a meeting with the committee members on January 25 night. What was the meeting all about? It is now clear that Deep Sidhu and Lakha Sidhana worked as the agents of BJP,” he said.

Also read: ‘Self Expression or Ideological Difference?’: How the Tractor Rally Went ‘Off Course’

Rajewal also said that when tractor march started, senior farmer union leader Darshan Pal asked him to hurry to the spot, as farmers were being stopped from entering the planned route. “I came to know that the tractor’s cavalcade was forcibly moved by Delhi Police to Ring Road. When I reached there, a large number of tractors were barricaded and many had reached Ring Road. Same situation prevailed everywhere,” he said in his speech.

Concluding his speech, an emotional Rajewal said, “If we will turn violent, Modi will win. And we will not let him win. No power can defeat us.”

Who is Deep Sidhu?

Punjabi actor and activist Deep Sidhu hails from Sri Muktsar Sahib district. Before films, he tried his luck in modelling. A law student, he also practiced law for some time. Sidhu had been summoned by the National Investigation Agency on January 17 in connection with Sikhs for Justice.

Sidhu had campaigned for BJP MP from Gurdaspur Sunny Deol in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. However, Sunny Deol has been denying any connection with Sidhu following the controversy.

To prove his association with the BJP, farmers’ union leaders and supporters had also circulated photos of Sidhu with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Sidhu is often seen sharing videos on his Facebook page about the politics and history of Punjab, Sikh issues and Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale. It was during the September 25 bandh that Sidhu along with other artists had gathered to hold a protest at Shambhu border between Punjab and Haryana, which got a good response.

Later he started a permanent dharna at Shambhu border and projected himself as the leader of the protest. But suspicious of his BJP connection, farmers’ unions kept him away.

Who is Lakha Sidhana?

Lakhbir Singh alias Lakha Sidhana is a gangster turned social activist. Hailing from Sidhana village of Bathinda district, he is facing over a dozen cases of loot, murder, attempt to murder, booth capturing, gang wars and those under the Arms Act. Interestingly, Sidhana used to work for Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader and former minister Sikander Singh Maluka in the previous SAD-BJP government.

He was first jailed in 2004 and since then has been behind bars many times. Sidhana shot into limelight in 2017, when he and his supporters blackened signboards written in Hindi and English in Bathinda over the demand that Punjabi should be the first language on sign boards.

Once a kabbadi player and with plans of joining the Indian Army, Sidhana also contested the 2012 assembly election on the ticket of People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) from Rampura Phul seat in Bathinda but lost his security deposit.

Post the Red Fort vandalism, both Sidhu and Sidhana were facing severe backlash across Punjab. Sidhu’s video of fleeing from Red Fort on a motorbike has gone viral, and the duo are not reachable. “Is it not strange that they managed to flee from Red Fort while many others were injured in the chaos?” said Shingara Singh Mann, union leader.