By Rajnish Singh
New Delhi, Oct 3 (IANS) Riding the wave of popular sentiment on anti-farmer bill, secessionist group Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) has announced a reward of $10,000 for hoisting Khalistan flag at Shambhu toll plaza at Punjab-Haryana border during farmers rally on Sunday.
Agencies have warned both Punjab and Haryana police to be on alert as the US-based SFJ’s General Counsel Gurpatwant Singh Pannun has given the call for raising Khalistan flag at Shambhu border to highlight its agenda that “independence from India is the only permanent solution”.
During the farmers rally at Shambhu border, SFJ’s referendum ambassadors will try to register votes for the outfit’s ‘Referendum 2020’ agenda and will distribute literature to educate farmers about the permanent solution to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s agricultural reform bills, agencies informed.
Situated on the Punjab-Haryana interstate border, Shambhu village in the Patiala district in Punjab has turned into a major hotspot of farmer protests in the area. While 31 farmer organisations laid siege to the railway tracks on New Delhi-Rajpura line here on Thursday for an indefinite period, the village has been witnessing protests since September 23 against the farm legislations. It is learnt that the farmers have planned a rally on Sunday at Shambhu border.
On September 25, thousands of farmers accompanied by social organisations and Punjabi artists staged a protest at the village, blocking the national highway throughout the day as part of their Punjab bandh call asking the Central government to withdraw the farm bills and guarantee minimum support price (MSP) for crops.
The agitation is continuing since the two Houses of Parliament last month passed The Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 during Monsoon Session.
Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, a leader of NDA ally Shiromani Akali Dal — which enjoys significant support among the Sikh peasantry in Punjab and Haryana — had resigned from the Union Cabinet, hours ahead of voting in the Lower House on the two earlier Bills on September 17.
The SFJ is trying to fish in troubled waters and is collecting applications and data from farmers of Punjab and Haryana from October 1-8 to distribute $1 million among those who are defaulting in agricultural loan payments.
Earlier the group had announced that from October 1 to October 8, any farmer — irrespective of his faith — can register 25 votes for the Khalistan Referendum 2020 and get a grant of Rs 5,000 as assistance to repay their agricultural loans.
The security agencies have since received inputs on the latest offer by SFJ.
Attributing the roots of Modi’s land grabbing policy as legacy of “British Raj”, the SFJ has launched a dedicated portal in British cyber space to distribute $1 million among farmers of Punjab and Haryana who are defaulting in agricultural loan payments, declaring “the distressed farmers can apply for a monthly grant till October 8”.
Gurpatwant Singh Pannun recently stated that “its not only Modi’s BJP but Congress, AAP and SAD (Badal) are equally complicit in throwing farmers to the corporate wolves”.
“In Khalistan, all agricultural loans will be written off,” Pannun claimed in his message.
Through the British portal www.khalistan4farmers.uk, the group also sought applications for Rs 5,000 monthly grant from farmers of Punjab and Haryana who own less than 5 acres of land and have defaulted on their agricultural loans.
During the last 90 days 221 plus farmers of Punjab have committed suicide due to the mounting pressure from agricultural loans and looming danger of their lands being taken by corporations under the New Farm Bills, SFJ’s UK Coordinators Paramjeet Singh Pamma and Dupinderjit Singh have alleged.
The SFJ had earlier announced to hold its ‘Referendum-2020’ campaign in November this year. In September beginning the group had offered Rs 3,500 each as grant on monthly basis to woo Punjab farmers ahead of its anti-India ‘Referendum-2020’.
Based on the National Investigation Agency’s recommendation regarding ongoing anti-India activities of the SFJ, the Ministry of Home Affairs had, in the beginning of September, ordered attachment of properties of SFJ’s key leaders — Gurpatwant Singh Pannun and Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
Pannun is the SFJ’s General Counsel while Nijjar is ‘Referendum 2020’ Canada coordinator.
The NIA said that the SFJ, headed by Pannun, is presently making efforts to propagate the ‘Referendum-2020’ on social media.
The MHA declared the SFJ as an ‘unlawful association’ under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act through a notification dated July 10 last year. The MHA, in a notification dated July 1, had designated Pannun, Nijjar and seven other pro-Khalistanis as ‘terrorists’ as per the Act’s Fourth Schedule.
(Rajnish Singh can be contacted at [email protected])