Rejecting outright allegations of “anti-nationalism” against Punjab’s farmers, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh today asserted here that he was not in the national capital to confront the Centre but to “fight for justice for the poor farmers, whose livelihood has been at stake due to the central farm laws”.
Asserting that “we are here not to disturb peace but to preserve it”, Capt Amarinder said he and other legislators from Punjab were forced to come to Delhi as President Ram Nath Kovind had declined their request for a meeting on the plea that the state amendment Bills were still lying with the Governor. Though they had earlier planned to hold a relay ‘dharna’ (sit-in demonstration) at Rajghat — Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial — they had to shift to Jantar Mantar as Delhi Police imposed Section 144 CrPC at the memorial of Father of the Nation, he said.
The Punjab CM said he knew the state Governor had still not forwarded the Bills to the Centre, even though he had no role to play in the matter and had wanted to meet the President to brief him on Punjab’s concerns about national security and food security.
Capt Amarinder said it was his duty to apprise the head of the country of the situation on the national security and food security fronts.
As far as Punjab’s Bills were concerned, he expressed the hope that the President will give full assent to them, following the precedent of the then President Pranab Mukherjee, who had assented to the Bills passed by BJP-ruled states under Article 254 (II) on suggestion made by Arun Jaitley.
Addressing the gathering of Punjab’s Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) who held their sit-in protest at Jantar Mantar, where he reached after paying his respects at Rajghat along with Congress’ Members of Parliament (MPs) from the state, the CM expressed the hope that the Narendra Modi-led central government will look at Punjab and its problems in the backdrop of the sacrifices made by Punjabis through the decades.
He trashed any suggestion of Punjab’s farmers resorting to anti-national activities, pointing out that their agitation against the farm laws had been completely peaceful.
“Punjabis are deployed at the borders, fighting for the country, in many tough terrains and have given their blood to ensure the nation’s safety and security,” Capt Amarinder said, adding that no citizen of Punjab could ever think about indulging in any anti-national activity.
He repeated his warning that any move by a government to tinker with religion or livelihood of the people was bound to trigger public resentment and anger.
“The farmers are protesting because the new laws of the central government will destroy them and snatch every morsel of food from the mouths of their children,” he said, adding that “we are all ready to give our blood for the nation, as we Punjabis have always done”.
The CM warned failure to resolve the issues of the farmers would lead to unrest, which both China and Pakistan would try to exploit to the detriment of national security, urging the Centre to look at the plight of the small and marginal farmers, who constitute 75 per cent of Punjab’s farming community. He said that as home minister, he was aware of the threat at the borders, with Pakistan smuggling drugs and weapons for terrorists and gangsters into Punjab through up to three drones every day. If trouble erupts in Punjab, the entire nation’s security would be at stake, he added. Highlighting the crisis faced by Punjab due to the decision of the Railways not to ply goods trains in the state, the CM said contrary to the misinformation being spread, tracks were currently blocked at only two places, which were off the main lines and connected to two private plants.
“The farmers are fighting the corporates, which is why they are not allowing supplies on these two track,” he said, adding that all the other railway lines were open.
Questioning the rationale behind the Centre’s refusal to allow trains to ply in Punjab, Capt Amarinder said this decision was obstructing movement of essential supplies not just in Punjab — which has run out of coal leading to massive power crisis in addition to facing acute shortage of other critical items — but also in other states and even to the armed forces in Ladakh and Kashmir.
The CM slammed the Centre over the “ill-conceived” farm laws, which, he iterated, would destroy the established system of marketing of food produce through close-knit relations between farmers and “Arhityas”.
Besides Congress MLAs, the protest was joined by Lok Insaaf Party’s Simranjit Singh Bains, Ekta Party’s Sukhpal Khaira and Shiromani Akali Dal (Democratic) MLA Parminder Singh Dhindsa. They also lashed out at the Centre’s “antiPunjab and anti-farmers moves”.