It was a smart move that left Punjab Police and state government officials red-faced.
Hundreds of farmers from several districts, including Sangrur, Mansa, Bathinda and Muktsar, on Wednesday assembled near Badal — the native village of Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal — two days ahead of their planned protest.
Interestingly, the farmers unions had earlier announced to hold a three-day round-the- clock protest at Badal village from January 22-24.
The march took police and government officials, who were taking it easy, by surprise.
Fearing police crackdown on its leaders and workers, farmers started arriving at Rai Ke Kalan village around midnight. Rai Ke Kalan is just three km away from Badal village. The farmers, who are demanding better crop compensation for cotton growers, are presently camping inside a local gurdwara.
Police have now cordoned off the two villages and sealed its entry points. Even the power supply to the village remained suspended throughout the day. Situation remained tense as repeated meeting of farmer representatives with Bathinda deputy commissioner Basant Garg and senior superintendent of police Swapan Sharma remained inconclusive.
Sukhdev Singh Kokri, state general secretary of Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan), claimed the farmers have come early to mobilise support for their rally. “Had we stuck to our plan, police and administration would have gone all out to foil our protest. This time, we decided to dodge them,” Kokri said.
Shingara Singh Mann, BKU (Ugarahan) district chief, said the heavy deployment of police has created panic in the village.
“The administration wants us to step out so that they can arrest us. But we won’t come out of the gurdwara till police defuse the tense situation”, Mann said. SSP Sharma said the farmers have breached trust and hoodwinked the administration.
“They have forcefully entered the gurdwara compound and are creating chaos in the village,” said the SSP. DC Basant Garg said the administration is making every effort to raise their demands with the state government.
What farmers want
Farmers are demanding a compensation of Rs 40,000 per acre for loss to the cotton crop and Rs 20,000 per acre for farm labourers, who could not get work due to damage to the crop. They are also demanding the withdrawal of Prevention of Damage to Public and Private Property Act, minimum support price of Rs 4,500 per quintal for basmati-1509 variety and Rs 5,000 per quintal for basmati-1121 variety apart from clearance of sugarcane growers’ dues.