Leaders giveth and leaders taketh away.
A year after the assembly election campaign, more than 50 farmers of Moga district who then ploughed their wheat crop to ready 260 acres for the "Maha Rally" of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) now are under pressure from the police to return the compensation money to senior leaders of the party.
A controversy was set rolling two days ago when the farmers of Killi Chahlan village got a massage from the police to either return the money to senior Akali leader and sarpanch, Kuldeep Singh of Chuharchak village in the district, or face the consequences. The farmers couldn't believe it coming from a government with the motto "Raj nahi sewa (Not rule but service)".
Determined to fight back, the farmers have declined to obey the police diktat. They have the support of the Bharti Kisan Union (Ekta-Ugrahan), which is ready for an agitation over the issue. Progressive farmer Ram Singh recalled how the police had built pressure on the farmers.
"Former station house officer Jasvir Singh called up the farmers and told them to return the money," he said. "I have served the SAD for the past 28 years but the party's local legislator, Rajwinder Kaur, and Jagraj Singh Daudhar of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) had no help to offer us."
"We will severe our ties with the SAD and not allow any Akali leader to enter the village, if the police continue to threaten us," said a villager speaking at the meeting on Thursday on the common ground of Killi Chahlan. "Our destroying the crop a year ago to clear the field for the Akali rally was not voluntary."
Kuldeep Singh, sarpanch of Chuharchak and senior Akali leader, complained to the senior superintendent of police (SSP) that the farmers had accepted Rs. 20,000 as compensation for each acre cleared but watered the fields during the rally, and so they had no right to keep the money. "On December 1 last year, the electricity department authorities at Ajitwal disconnected the power supply to our tube-well motors," said Gurnam Singh, former sarpanch of Killi Chahlan.
"How do we now irrigate our fields? The police submitted false statements at the behest of senior Akali leaders."
"The police acted on a complaint from Kuldip Singh, sarpanch of Chuharchak," SSP Surjit Singh Grewal confirmed. "I called the farmers of Killi Chahlan and they agreed to return the money to Kuldeep Singh but I am unaware why they took a U-turn. The police will go by law, and they didn't threaten any farmer. The allegation is false."
Sukhdev Singh Kokri Kalan, state general secretary of the BKU (Ekta-Ugrahan), reached Killi Chahlan on Thursday and made a state there about Akali leaders harassing poor farmers. "We'll take our protest to the streets," he added. Former agriculture minister Tota Singh agreed that some farmers had met him on this issue. "I assured them that I will take up the matter with chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal," he said. "I will try to solve it locally."
Ram Singh, Gurnam Singh, Surjit Singh, Karam Singh, Bikkar Singh, Kuldeep Singh, Sukhdev Singh, Bakhtawar Singh, Natha Singh, and Avtar Singh are some of the farmers who had ploughed their land."