BJP leaders taken hostage by farmers rescued in Punjab
Twelve BJP leaders of the party’s Rajpura unit in Patiala district, who had been taken hostage by farmers since Sunday afternoon, were rescued around 4am on Monday after the Punjab and Haryana high court and the Union home ministry intervened.
Police used mild lathicharge to disperse the farmers, who had gathered outside a house at Guru Arjan Dev Colony in Rajpura town, 45km from Patiala, and took away Punjab BJP spokesman Bhupesh Aggarwal and general secretary Subhash Sharma, Patiala rural BJP unit president Vikas Sharma and Rajpura unit workers under tight security.
In a midnight hearing urgently convened through video-conferencing, high court judge Suvir Sehgal ordered the safe exit of those illegally detained at the Rajpura house and a compliance report by 2pm on Monday.
DC, DIG camp at Rajpura at protest site
Patiala deputy commissioner Kumar Amit and Punjab Police deputy inspector general (DIG) Vikramjit Duggal were at the spot since Sunday evening to ensure the safety of the BJP leaders.
The protesters had even cut off the electricity supply of the house. They were demanding the registration of a first information report (FIR) against the BJP leaders as one of their bodyguards had taken out a pistol in self-defence while they were protesting.
The BJP leaders made several calls to their state and central leaders. “The Union home ministry was apprised of the situation and after their intervention, the police, which was earlier a mute spectator, swung into action,” a BJP leader said, requesting anonymity.
Rajpura BJP councillor assaulted, clothes torn
Tension prevailed in Rajpura since Sunday morning when agitators disrupted the district-level meeting of the BJP leaders at the Bharat Vikas Parishad in protest against the Centre’s farm laws.
Aggarwal, Vikas Sharma and the other leaders were taken to a house adjoining the Bharat Vikas Parishad office, from where a panicky Aggarwal released a video, saying the lives of the BJP leaders was in danger.
Police managed to take him and others to safety, but Rajpura BJP councillor Shanti Swarup was not as lucky. While being escorted out by the police, protesters chased and manhandled him and even tore his clothes. The incident was shared on social media.
BJP leader blames Congress goons
By Sunday evening, the party leadership rushed BJP state general secretary Subhash Sharma to Rajpura to address a press conference. He blamed chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh for the situation in the state and said, “Congress goons are trying to intimidate the Hindu minority in Punjab.”
As farmers learnt about the press conference at Lions Club, Rajpura, they surrounded it but the police escorted Subhash Sharma to safety.
Defiant BJP leaders firm on meeting
In the meantime, Aggarwal issued a statement on Sunday evening that the BJP will hold its meeting as planned at the Guru Arjan Dev Colony. Following this, Aggarwal along with Subhash Sharma, Vikas Sharma, Patiala district president Harinder Kohli and other local leaders gathered at the house in Arjun Colony.
The protesters laid siege to the house and the police managed to surround the house. In a video from the house, Subhash Sharma alleged that the Congress had sent its workers for the gherao. “It’s like terrorism days in Punjab. Police are not acting against goons,” he said.
Protesters say Aggarwal provoked them
Rajpura-based farmer leader Prem Singh Bhangu said that Aggarwal had used provocative language and added that the peaceful protesters turned restive in the morning when Aggarwal’s bodyguard pointed his pistol at them. He demanded an apology from the BJP leadership.
The DC and the DIG tried to defuse the situation, but the stalemate continued overnight.
BJP leaders at the receiving end in Punjab
Punjab BJP president Ashwani Sharma said: “This is an attack on democracy, and not the BJP. There is lawlessness in Punjab as police have become mute spectators.”
Farmers have been targeting BJP leaders and events over the past few months.
On June 30, Rajya Sabha member Shwait Malik had to face the farmers’ wrath when he was on his way to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Bathinda. In March, Fazilka BJP legislator Arun Narang was stripped by anti-farm law protesters, while the convoy of Ashwani Sharma was attacked in Ferozepur last October.