Left parties and their affiliated trade and kisan unions joined hands to lodge their protest against the Prevention of Damage to Public and Private Property Bill proposed by the Punjab government with an aim to curtail protests and demonstrations against the government.
During the protest, Left leaders urged Punjab governor Shivraj Patil not to grant his assent to the proposed bill, which was already passed by the vidhan sabha. They described the bill as a “black law” aimed at suppressing the fundamental right of citizens to raise their voice against anti-peoples policies of the government.
Left leaders, including Communist Party of India (CPI) leader Amarjit Singh Asal, Communist Party of India (Marxist) Vijay Mishra and CPM Punjab secretary Mangat Ram Pasla and CPI (Marxist-Leninist) state secretary Gurmeet Singh Bakhtupura, addressed the joint protest rally against the bill at Ram Bagh here on Monday.
Other frontline leaders who addressed the rally included kisan leaders Rattan Singh Randhawa, Satnam Singh Ajnala, Amrik Singh and Niranjan Singh. They later marched in a procession to Jallianwala Bagh raising slogans against the government and demanding the bill be withdrawn.
Left leaders said it reminded them of the Emergency days when the then prime minister, Indira Gandhi, crushed all democratic rights.
They expressed surprise over chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, who was among the first to protest against the Emergency, was now the “brain” behind the controversial anti-democratic bill.
According to the bill, a dharna, bandh or demonstration leading to blockade of rail and road traffic will attract a fine of Rs 1 lakh and a punishment up to a year in jail. In case of damage to public or private property by fire or explosives, the fine and imprisonment may go up to Rs 3 lakh and two years.
The Left parties, which have spearheaded several protests against the state government, see the bill as an attempt to curtail their anti-government activities.
Kisan unions affiliated to these parties have in the past organised several road and rail blockades that continued for several days.
“Our protests have always been peaceful and we have never indulged in damage to public or private property. But the government can make use of anti-social elements to disrupt our protests and turn peaceful demonstrations unruly,” said Randhawa pointing out that in such a scenario the organisers would be held responsible for the deeds of others.