Chandigarh, January 26
Amid slogans of ‘Raj karega Khalsa’, actor-turned-activist Deep Sidhu handed over a ‘kesri’ flag to a man to hoist on the ramparts of the Red Ford on Tuesday afternoon — the Republic Day.
Despite being shunned by farmer unions at various stages of the ongoing anti-farm law agitation, Deep Sidhu has been attempting to take a leadership role in the movement for the past several months.
Pushed to the periphery of the agitation, Deep Sidhu bounced back one day ahead of the planned tractor march of Tuesday. He was seen campaigning for the march on the Outer Ring Road. The position taken by the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee in favour of sticking to the original plan of holding the parade on the Outer Ring Road, along with another extreme Left-leaning body Bharti Kisan Union (Krantikari), which is part of the 32 farmer organisations, gave Deep Sidhu the opportunity to push for not following the new route agreed upon.
On Monday evening, Deep Sidhu took over the main stage at Singhu, and along with gangster-turned-social activist Lakha Sidhana, announced they would hold the march “inside Delhi”.
According to sources, they also had support from certain extreme Left-leaning elements among the 32 organisations in the plan for not following the agreed upon route. They had a plan ready by Tuesday morning. First, they started a march of their own much before the official march of the farmer unions, and positioned their ‘henchmen’ in large numbers at a road turning towards central Delhi. From there they directed other tractors towards the Red Fort instead of the agreed route. At one point of time, volunteers of farmer unions tried to intervene in this, but they were outnumbered by the Deep Sidhu and Lakha Sidhana group.
This contingency had been foreseen by farmer unions long back. Around a month ago, during a meeting of the 32 farmer unions, one of the leaders had termed Deep Sidhu and Lakha Sidhana as “enemies of this struggle”.
Since the start of the agitation, the common concern among the 32 organisations was that the two were pushing the “struggle” towards a communal path.
Deep Sidhu, who has acted in a few Punjabi films, surprised everybody last year when he raised a question over the leadership of the farmer unions and announced to launch his own ‘morcha’ at Shambu.
During the last Lok Sabha election, Deep Sidhu was campaigning to strengthen the BJP, and had even posed with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as he was the election agent of the party’s Gurdaspur candidate Sunny Deol. He was accused by farmer unions in Punjab as an “RSS agent”.
The ‘Shambu morcha’, as he called it, soon started receiving “live streaming” support from some pro-Khalistani channels and Deep Sidhu would often attack the ‘Leftist’ leadership of the unions. He would cite the example of Jews and motivate people to fight for a “Sikh homeland”.
A question being raised now is over his shift from “Hindu Right” to “Sikh Right wing”. He himself gave the explanation that it was Naxalite-turned-Khalistan proponent Ajmer Singh’s books on Sikh history that changed his perception. Farmer unions, however, openly allege that Sidhu is a “front man” of Ajmer Singh.
As farmer unions gave no space to Sidhu during the agitation, after November 26-27 — when farmers reached at the doorstep of Delhi — Sidhu in a TV interview asked people to go back as the “Communists” wanted to use their children as cannon fodder. Soon, however, he was seen backtracking from the statement.
Around two weeks back, in a letter sent to the unions, he expressed a desire to get associated with their platforms.
Deep Sidhu has posted a video on his Facebook page saying, “We have only hoisted the Nishan Sahib at the Red Fort while exercising our democratic right to protest.”
He said in such a protest, people’s anger flares up and you cannot blame one person for inciting the protesters.
He said they went to the Red Fort as a symbolic protest and didn’t remove the Tricolour, but hoisted the Nishan Sahib as a sign of “unity in diversity”.
He also said that today’s incident shouldn’t be seen in isolation as the farmers’ protest has been going on for the past few months.
Sidhu said the protesters didn’t go to Delhi to hurt anyone or damage government property and should not be termed as communal elements or hardliners.
He said the protest was peaceful and symbolic and the emotions of the people should be understood and no one person should be blamed for the mobilisation of people or protest.
He added India’s flag was not removed from the flagpole, and they only hoisted the Kisan Mazdoor Ekta’s flag and the Nishan Sahib.
Deep Sidhu had campaigned for BJP’s Sunny Deol during the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
Two agitators hoisted their own flags after climbing the flagstaff at the Red Fort where thousands of protesters stormed, creating a major law and order issue.