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Angry at Bail for Ashish Mishra, Farmers' Unions to Protest Against Modi as He Visits Punjab

The prime minister is campaigning in Punjab thrice this week, and the Samyukt Kisan Morcha has planned protests to make their demands heard.

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Jalandhar: A day after the Allahabad high court granted bail to Ashish Mishra, the son of Union minister of state Ajay Mishra Teni in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence case in Uttar Pradesh, Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) leaders Friday announced they would protest against Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Jalandhar on February 14.

SKM leaders announced that they would hold peaceful protests against Modi during his visit to Pathankot on February 16 and Abohar on February 18, too. SKM, the umbrella body of farmers’ unions, had led the yearlong peasants’ protests at Delhi’s borders.

Modi and other senior BJP leaders will be visiting Punjab for election rallies in the last week of campaigning. Punjab goes to polls on February 20.

Notably, this will be Modi’s second to Punjab after the repeal of the three controversial farm laws on November 19, 2021. Earlier, the prime minister was scheduled to address a BJP rally at Ferozepur on January 5, which was called off, leading to a controversy.

The SKM leaders said they have also decided to show black flags and protest against other senior BJP leaders including Union home minister Amit Shah, defence minister Rajnath Singh, Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar and BJP national president J.P. Nadda, who will be touring Punjab in the wake of the elections. The SKM has also released a poster about this.

Talking to The Wire, Darshan Pal, president of the Krantikari Kisan Union, Punjab, while condemning the bail granted to Ashish, said, “Despite facing serious charges in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence, he has been given bail. Our peaceful protest is against the bail of Ashish Mishra, demanding dismissal of Ajay Mishra Teni from the Union cabinet, against the harassment of farmers who were booked for protests against PM Modi’s visit to Ferozepur and failure of the Modi government in forming a committee on MSP, and demanding taking back pending cases against farmers in UP, Haryana, Uttarakhand and even Punjab.”

Pal said SKM leaders will be burning effigies of Modi in villages on February 14 and will hold protests at the district and tehsil level on February 16 in Punjab.

However, the senior farmers’ union leader said that the SKM might take back its decision to hold protests if the prime minister makes an announcement fulfilling farmers’ demands ahead of his visit. “Our demands have been ignored,” he added.

Surjit Singh Phool, president of BKU Krantikari, whose union members had protested against Modi at Pyareana village in Ferozepur on January 5, said, “The Supreme Court monitored Special Investigation Team (SIT) had found Ashish Mishra guilty in the Lakhimpur Violence case. An FIR was lodged against him proving the serious charges but still he has been given bail. The government is rubbing salt on our wounds.”

Talking about the FIRs against farmers, who held protests against Modi in Ferozepur, Phool said, “The police have registered FIRs against 150 unidentified people at Kulgadi police station of Ferozepur district. Now, the Punjab Police was pressuring the farmers to get bail. But we have refused to go to the police and apply for bail. We would rather hold protests, if any of our union members were arrested.”

On protests against PM Modi’s rallies, Phool said that they would stand on the roads, show black flags and protest against the BJP leadership. “Though farm laws have been repealed, the government is non-committal on MSP and cases against farmers still stand. Our target is not just BJP but its alliance partners Punjab Lok Congress and SAD (Sanyukt) who are contesting Punjab polls jointly,” he added.

Similarly, Haryana-based farm union leader Tejveer Singh, who is part of the ‘No Vote to BJP’ campaign in UP these days, said, “As Ashish Mishra has been given bail in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence case, we will up the ante against the Modi government. On a call given by the SKM, we have been holding protests against BJP in UP. We will definitely reach Punjab to protest against Modi and other BJP leaders. We are touring different constituencies of UP to target BJP through votes. In UP, we are in touch with BKU leader Rakesh Tikait, who is spearheading our campaign.”

Tejveer is the coordinator and spokesperson of the newly founded BKU (Shaheed Bhagat Singh), which was earlier associated with the BKU Charuni group. He along with many youths from Ambala had remained at the forefront during farmers’ protest at Singhu border.

After Ashish got bail, the SKM issued a press note on February 10 in which they had termed the development as unfortunate and surprising.

In its statement, the SKM said that the brutal case of mowing down four farmers and a journalist to death in broad daylight by the son of a Union minister was a trial for the rule of law across the country. “In such a case, despite clear evidence, the murder accused getting bail so soon and that too on the first day of elections in UP was a matter of surprise,” the SKM leaders said.