Undeclared Emergency in Punjab

A platform of 17 peasants’ and workers’ organizations of Punjab had given a call for ‘Rail Roko’ protests on 6 March demanding a bonus of Rs 100 on MSP for wheat, providing the homestead plots to rural labourers as promised, waiver of pending electricity bills and provision of free motors on fields of small farmers.

On the night of the 5th itself, the police conducted raids and arrested peasants’ leaders and activists wholesale. Mass arrests also took place on the 6th where peasants managed to hold protests (such mass arrests took place at Gurdaspur, Jalandhar and other places). Around 2500 peasants are now in jails. A large number of CPI(ML) members and leaders are now in jail, as are those of other Left parties. Arrested CPI(ML) leaders include SCMs Gurmeet Bakhpura, Gulzar Singh, Sukhdev Singh, Ruldu Singh, Gurjant Singh, Gurnam Bhikhi, and Gurpreet Rudeke, as well as party activists Ola Samaon, Gurpreet Kotdunna and AISA activist Harman Himmatpura. 200 CPI(ML) members are in Gurdaspur jail and 150 in Mansa jail. CPM Punjab leaders Comrades Raghvir Singh, Lal Chand, Atmaram, and others are also in jail. An ASI of Punjab Police died in Tarn Taran while raiding houses of leaders and police arrested many farmers on charges of killing the ASI. The police earlier registered the case under IPC section 304 but later amended it to 302, accusing farmers of murder. It was later cleared by the medical report that there was no injury mark on the body and the ASI died of heart attack rather than beating as claimed by police in the FIR.

In spite of the severe crackdown, protests have continued defying the repression. CPI(ML) activists have initiated a relay hunger strike in Mansa jail, which is likely to spread to other jails as well. On 18 March, an indefinite dharna has been called by the 17 organizations at DC offices all over Punjab demanding release of all those arrested. Also a call was given to observe the week as protest week. Effigies of Punjab Government were burned daily in various villages and towns in all districts of state. The Government under pressure released the few activists but kept the main leadership lodged illegally in jails. The effigies of Government were burnt in many villages of the four districts of Mansa, Barnala, Sangrur and Batala under leadership of CPIML. It was decided to hold dharnas outside DC offices on 18th march. This time too there was strong police arrangement. All buses were stopped kilometers away from cities to restrict protestors from reaching cities. Every farmers or laborer looking man was being detained for questioning. The farmers and laborers were arrested in large numbers showing the situation of undeclared emergency in Punjab. Still protests happened at many places. Finally, bowing to pressure the Punjab CM has agreed to meeting leaders of agitating union leaders on 1st April and to release the activists and leaders lodged in jails.

Liberation Archive