Three Akali ministers and SAD Rajya Sabha MP Balwinder Singh Bhunder faced embarrassing moments on Friday as farmers disrupted the state-level function at Badiala village in Bathinda district by holding a protest outside the venue.
Bhunder, who was the chief guest, had to cut short his speech as the organisers abruptly ended the function held to mark the death anniversary of Akali stalwart Sant Fateh Singh.
Farmers had given a call for disrupting the function by showing black flags to the leaders. Even local villagers joined the farmers, who demanded a compensation of Rs 40,000 per acre for loss to their cotton crop. Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had skipped the event apparently to avoid public wrath.
The political leaders had to wait for half an hour and left the venue only after police gave the green signal.
It is for the second time in over a month that farmers did not allow Bhunder to address the public. Bhunder, along with Punjab Agricultural University vice-chancellor Baldev Singh Dhillon, had faced the farmers’ ire on September 22.
Though police detained around 300 workers of farmer unions in the morning, they could not restrict the movement of farmers near the venue, despite elaborate security arrangements.
The gathering patiently heard ministers Daljit Singh Cheema, Janmeja Singh Sekhon and Surjit Singh Rakhra. The protest started when the farmers sitting in the gathering started assembling outside the main gate as Bhunder started addressing the audience.
Chaos prevailed outside the venue after the protesters raised slogans against the Punjab government. Police detained a few protesters while others managed to flee from the spot. Senior superintendent of police Rajeshwar Singh directed the police to note down the identities of the protesters so that action could be taken against them.
Speaking on the occasion, Bhunder said, “We are a democracy and everyone has the right to protest for their cause. We are happy that farmers are protesting for their better future, which depends on the Centre,” Bhunder said.
Ministers blame Cong for current unrest
In their speeches, ministers Cheema, Sekhon and Rakhra showed concern over the current unrest in Punjab and tried to brief the audience about the government’s role in defusing the situation.
All three blamed the Congress for the unrest. “What can we expect when Congress leaders, instead of behaving sensibly, share stage with radical bodies?” Cheema wondered. “It is a conspiracy by the Congress to disturb the hard-earned peace in the state by raking up a sensitive issue,” he said.
Sekhon asked people not to believe the rumours active on the social media about the sensitive issue. “Whoever is responsible for the desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib will be dealt with according to law. A special investigation team and a judicial panel are investigating the matter,” he said.
The ministers appealed to SAD supporters to be with the party in this “hour of crisis”.