Former Union minister and Shiromani Akali Dal leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal was arrested on Thursday during a protest against the farming laws that were introduced last week.
“Arrested for raising farmers’ voice, but they won’t be able to silence us,” Badal tweeted.
Earlier in the day, Shiromani Akali Dal began three separate farmers’ marches from Punjab to Chandigarh against the new farm laws. At the end of the protest, the party’s leadership will submit a memorandum against the laws to Punjab Governor VP Singh Badnore, reported The Times of India.
Sukbir Singh Badal, Prem Singh Chandumajra, Daljit Singh Cheema, Bikram Singh Majithia, and Bibi Jagir Kaur were also reportedly arrested during the protests.
Police reportedly resorted to lathicharge to disperse SAD workers, following which party leaders Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Balwinder Bhundar and Bunty Romana were taken into custody. The police action began after the rally reached the Chandigarh-Zirakpur border.
Sukhbir Singh Badal led a march from Amritsar while Harsimrat Kaur Badal began the protests from Bathinda. A third procession, led by Akali Dal leaders Chandumajra and Cheema began from Anandpur Sahib, according to NDTV. The three demonstrations had planned to come together at Chandigarh before the submission of the memorandum.
On September 26, the Shiromani Akali Dal, one of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s oldest allies, pulled out of the National Democratic Alliance. Harsimrat Kaur Badal had quit her central post on September 18.
On September 28, Badal had urged all Opposition parties to jointly fight for the farmers’ cause. “We are ready to join or follow any struggle in the overall interests of the farmers, farm labour, Arhatiyas and other farm produce traders,” Badal had said while addressing a rally in Ropar on Sunday. “Anything like the new farm bills, which increase the uncertainty over the fate of the farmers’ produce can have disastrous implications not only for the economy but also for social stability. The farmers’ plight affects the entire economy. Therefore what we are fighting for is to protect the national interests,” he said.
The controversial farm bills
The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill were cleared by the Parliament amid protests from the Opposition.
Critics say that these new agricultural policies will lead to farmers losing out on guaranteed purchase prices for their crops, to the benefit of large corporations. Most Opposition parties and farmers’ organisations across the country have strongly opposed the bills. On Saturday, the Congress ran a social media campaign “Speak Up for Farmers”, where the party leaders criticised the Narendra Modi government and posted videos showing their support for the farmers.