Op/Ed: Arrest of Deep Sidhu, Farmers’ Unions and Sikh Psyche

Deep Sidhu has emerged as a high profile figure after being arrested by the Delhi Police as the “prime accused” of January 26 violence in the Indian national capital. Everyone is indulged in examining his role in the context of the historic farmers’ struggle against three draconian laws enacted by the BJP-led union government of India. However, The Punjabi civil society, along with the diaspora, is divided over Deep Sidhu’s role in the farmers’ protest and the incidents of January 26 at the Red Fort.

How Deep Sidhu Entered the Spotlight

Though Sidhu had started his activism by uploading his videos on Facebook making commentary on the issues concerning the Sikhs, he launched his public activities along with Punjab singers and other pro-Punjab activists by organizing a huge gathering at the Shambhu barrier that separates Punjab and Haryana on the National Highway-1 near Rajpura on September 25 when the organizations gave Punjab Bandh call.

After his differences surfaced with the Punjabi singers and co-activists, he, along with like minded activists, launched a Morcha at Shambhu for an indefinite period. This morcha was undertaken for around two months. Activists, thinkers, intellectuals, and other enlightened people expressed their views from this morcha’s stage.

Reason Behind Deep Sidhu’s Criticism by Farm Union Leaders

From this stage, Sidhu repeatedly pointed out that Punjab and farmers’ problem is not limited to only farm laws. He insisted that the crisis needed to be understood in a larger perspective, as this is a question of the Punjabi civilization’s survival. This point was interpreted by the farmers’ unions and left-wing organizations of Punjab in such a way that it is meant for derailing the agitation that focused on the repeal of the laws.

Making Sidhu’s photographs with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah viral, they claimed that he is an “agent” of the government that had fielded him to ‘torpedo’ the agitation. During the 2019 Parliamentarian polls, these photos were taken when Sidhu campaigned for BJP’s candidate Sunny Deol in Gurdaspur. Sidhu clarified that he supported Deol being his friend. He also showed some pictures that depict that he was very close to Deol’s family.

As he criticized them often, the unions’ leaders banned him from addressing from their stages. This ban continued even on the borders of Delhi, where indefinite morcha has been spearheaded since November 26. The left-leaning section was already against him for his Sikh religious point of view. The propaganda against him made his character dubious and shabby for a considerable section of the Sikhs. Simultaneously, a young section of the Sikhs became his fan considering his views meaningful.

Events Leading to the Incident at the Red Fort

As scores of youngsters turned angry with the leaders over changing the route of the Republic Day tractor protest rally taken out on January 26, they took over control of the main stage of the agitation at the Singhu border of Delhi on January 25 night. They insisted on taking out the rally on the route announced earlier. They called Deep Sidhu, asking him to address the gathering. Sidhu addressed the gathering and endorsed their insistence on their demand, but he also asserted that unity must not be broken at any cost. The next day, he, along with thousands of youngsters, hoisted ‘Nishan Sahib’ on the Red Fort of Delhi.

Apart from a section of Indian media that reported this incident as “anti-national” and “insult” of the Indian national flag, the unions’ leaders also branded him as a “traitor” of the movement and his act as a “conspiracy” to derail the struggle. In a way, the unions’ leaders endorsed the propaganda of the Indian media and IT Cell of BJP. After the typical tone being expressed by the unions’ leaders and media, Delhi Police launched a crackdown on the innocent youths. It arrested hundreds of the youths and registered cases against them under UAPA, the sedition section, and other charges.

However, the human rights organization, Sikh bodies, and pro-people activists of other states expressed balanced views on this incident. They said that though hoisting ‘Nishan Sahib’ did not solve the purpose, nor was it part of the agitation program, this act is not a crime at all.

Farm Union Leaders Express Satisfaction After Sidhu’s Arrest

Issuing arrest warrants and lookout notice for Sidhu, Delhi police had also announced a cash reward of Rs 100,000 for information leading to Sidhu’s arrest. Now when Sidhu has been arrested, the Police have projected Sidhu as “prime accused” of the alleged violence held at Delhi on January 26 in the tone of unions’ leaders who declared that he is solely responsible for what happened there. However, few of them delivered such speeches that provoked the youths to reach the Red Fort and break the barricades of Police to enter the national capital forcibly.

Even after his arrest, the leaders have not changed their stance. Instead of advocating for Deep Sidhu’s human rights, they have dissociated themselves from his fate. Haryana leader Gurnam Singh Charuni said they had nothing to do with Sidhu. “He was not a part of this movement. It is now the government’s job to deal with him,” he added.

However, they would continue to support youngsters, who were part of the farmers’ movement, arrested before or after January 26, Charuni added. Punjab Kisan Union’s Ruldu Singh Mansa alleged Sidhu was a government agent who had now been “discarded”. “This is how the government uses youngsters and then discards them,” he claimed.

However, the arrest has made him garner the sympathy and support of the Sikh masses across the world.

Accepting the fact that Sikh culture is dominating the farmers’ struggle, the unions’ leaders must introspect and correct their actions in the interests of the farmers concerned about their future, failing which the divisions among the Punjabi society would get widened. After Sidhu also has human rights that should be protected rising above all the ideological differences.

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