There is a competition to garner the leadership of the protest, alleges RKMS’ V.M. Singh
The Ghazipur protest site on the Delhi Meerut Expressway was unusually quiet on Wednesday evening, after fissures emerged between farm groups over incidents of violence in Delhi on Republic Day.
V.M. Singh of the Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan (RKMS) declared that his organisation was withdrawing from the protest after the violence on Tuesday. “The protest deviated from the agenda on Republic Day. We were not supposed to go to Red Fort and unfurl a religious flag that is meant to be hoisted on gurudwaras,” he told reporters.
He and Rakesh Tikait were among several farmer leaders booked by the Delhi Police on Wednesday for violent clashes in the capital on Tuesday.
Mr. Singh, an ex-convenor of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) said he could not work with Mr. Tikait any more as he was among the leaders who had instigated farmers to break the barricades before the scheduled time. “There is a competition to garner the leadership of the protest. We allowed them [the BKU] to lead [at the Ghazipur site] but their leadership could not stick to their word,” he alleged.
Though the working group of the AIKSCC removed Mr. Singh from the position of convenor in December 2020, a significant number of farmers present at the Ghazipur border owe allegiance to Mr. Singh.
The BKU leadership held it was Mr. Singh’s personal decision and it would not affect the movement, but sources in the Union said it was going to hurt them both in terms of numbers and in rations for the protesting farmers at the site.
Describing it as a “selfish move”, Dharmendra Malik, media in-charge of BKU, said it seemed Mr. Singh had come under “the pressure of government”.
Earlier, Mr. Tikait told reporters that the government should take strict action against those who had hoisted a religious flag at the Red Fort.
Mr. Malik said it had clearly emerged that Deep Sidhu, who is close to the ruling dispensation, was responsible for the incidents at Red Fort. “None of the tractors that reached Red Fort had our (BKU) flag,” he said. He added that FIRs were lodged against leaders when such movements take place. “It will not deter us. It is for the government to decide how they want to take the negotiations forward,” he said.
However, senior members of the BKU admitted that even if it was a ploy of the government, it was the duty of the leadership to see through the trap as unlike at ITO, no tear gas shells had been used at the Red Fort. “Somebody wanted farmers to enter the monument. It has given the government an opportunity to break our unity,” alleged a senior member requesting anonymity.
Meanwhile, protestors could be seen leaving the protest site with luggage. The number of tractors also fell substantially. Mr. Malik said they were among those who had come to participate in the Republic Day rally.
Gurdeep Singh, a member of All India Kisan Sabha from Bareilly, said what happened on Tuesday was a blot on the movement but they would not budge. “Farmers have come here on their own accord and not because of any one leader. Yesterday was a hectic day and people have gone to their tents early. Some members have left only to be replaced by other members of the family,” he said on the lack of activity near the stage.
However, a Fire Department staff said there was at least a 40% drop in numbers since Tuesday. Aniket, a sanitary worker with the Ghaziabad Nagar Nigam, said, “Today, we are able to clean the place at 6.30 p.m. because of the lack of people. Till Tuesday, we started our work at 9.30 p.m.”
In a related development, the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Bhanu) also withdrew from the protest on Wednesday evening. BKU (Bhanu) was holding a protest against farm laws at the Chilla border that separates Delhi and Noida. Bhanu Pratap Singh, president of the group, said his conscience did not allow him to continue with the protest at the site after the violence on Republic Day. The group had earlier withdrawn from the protest but then returned to the site.
“They are not part of the coordination committee and are seen close to the government but still it is a loss,” said Rajvir Singh, vice president, BKU. “It is a people’s movement. As long as they are here, we have a role,” he added.