Punjabi Artists Harbhajan Mann, Sidhu Moosewala, Deep Sidhu Lead Farmers’ Protests

Popular singers and actors such as Harbhajan Mann, Sidhu Moosewala, Ranjit Bawa, Jass Bajwa, Deep Sidhu, and Ms Sonia Mann are supporting the farmers' protests and addressing public rallies in several parts of Punjab. Photo courtesy: Harbhajan Mann / Twitter
Popular singers and actors such as Harbhajan Mann, Sidhu Moosewala, Ranjit Bawa, Jass Bajwa, Deep Sidhu, and Ms Sonia Mann are supporting the farmers’ protests and addressing public rallies in several parts of Punjab. Photo courtesy: Harbhajan Mann / Twitter

Although the farmers across the nation are protesting against Modi government’s decision, the epicenter of the movement is Punjab which contributes the lion’s share to the Indian agriculture sector.

By Rakesh Raman

A slew of artists has come at the forefront of the ongoing agitation against the contentious farm laws introduced by the Indian government headed by Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi.

Popular singers and actors such as Harbhajan Mann, Sidhu Moosewala, Ranjit Bawa, Jass Bajwa, and Ms Sonia Mann are supporting the protests and addressing public rallies in several parts of Punjab, an agrarian state in India.

Also, Deep Sidhu – a fledgling Punjabi actor who is known for his proximity to Bollywood actor Sunny Deol – is explaining the repercussions of the draconian farm laws and the scope of the agitation that the farmers have launched.

While Sunny Deol belongs to Modi’s political outfit Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and he is a Member of Parliament (MP) from Punjab’s Gurdaspur constituency, he has decided to betray the people of Punjab while behaving as a toady of PM Modi.

Sunny Deol has not yet denounced Modi government’s farm legislation – which many believe will deprive the farmers of their farming rights. Farmers complain that the new laws will make the lives miserable for nearly 140 million farming families, as the Modi government is hell-bent to privatize the Indian agriculture sector to benefit a handful of crony capitalists.

Moreover, by allowing a deluge of people from other states to enter Punjab’s agriculture sector, the Modi government may also be aiming to change the demographic status of the state, as it has been doing in Kashmir after the revocation of Article 370.

Currently, hundreds of thousands of farmers in India are defying the safe-distancing coronavirus guidelines to protest on roads against the Modi government. The farmers – who are also supported by political parties and social activists – held placards that asked people to dethrone Modi to save India.

The agitation gained momentum after the Modi government passed on September 20 its farm Bills in the Rajya Sabha by voice vote amid uproar and protests by opposition leaders.

Although the farmers across the nation are protesting against Modi government’s decision, the epicenter of the movement is Punjab which contributes the lion’s share to the Indian agriculture sector.

SUPPRESSION OF DISSENT

This is the second major nationwide agitation during the past few months against the anti-people actions of the Modi government. In the beginning of this year, hundreds of thousands of Indians had occupied the streets to protest against the discriminatory citizenship laws such as the CAA or Citizenship Amendment Act introduced by the Modi government.

The anti-CAA protests – mostly led by students – triggered a communal violence in Delhi. At least 53 people (mostly Muslims) were murdered and hundreds of others got injured in February this year. In order to suppress the anti-CAA protests, the Modi government – through Delhi Police which is controlled by home minister Amit Shah – used brutal force against the peaceful protesters.

And now dozens of innocent protesters are being jailed or harassed by the police while they are being arbitrarily charged under the dreadful anti-terror laws such as sedition and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or UAPA.

The ongoing farmers’ protests are much bigger in scale than the anti-CAA demonstrations. Since the Modi government is not willing to withdraw the new farming legislation which is a deceptive combination of three different laws, farmers have decided to intensify their movement across the country.

Therefore, there is a possibility that the Modi government will unleash police brutality on protesting farmers and may use anti-terror laws including sedition and UAPA against some farmers and their leaders. Farmers should be prepared for such an eventuality.

Meanwhile, a few pro-government miscreants have already started calling the protesting farmers as terrorists. The government has also deputed a rude minister Anurag Thakur to defend the new farm laws.

Anurag Thakur treats the peaceful protesters as traitors and gave a call during the anti-CAA protest to ‘shoot the traitors’ after which the mobs actually opened fire on protesters and subsequently the Delhi violence took place.

The police and courts in India are so terrified or complicit in the unlawful acts that they did not dare to take action against the rogue minister’s violent speech.

Meanwhile, the farmers have decided to form a 14-member steering committee with 7 artists and 7 leaders from the farming organizations to chalk out the future plan of action to get the controversial laws rescinded.

By Rakesh Raman, who is a national award-winning journalist and social activist. He is the founder of a humanitarian organization RMN Foundation which is working in diverse areas to help the disadvantaged and distressed people in the society.

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Rakesh Raman