The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked Attorney General KK Venugopal to file an affidavit by Wednesday on the allegations that separatist Khalistani elements have infiltrated the farmers’ protest against the Centre’s new farm laws, reported Live Law. The court was hearing a batch of petitions against the farm laws as well as the ongoing farmer protest at Delhi borders.

During its Tuesday hearing, the Supreme Court suspended the farm laws and formed a committee to resolve the deadlock between the farmers and the Centre.

“If there is an infiltration by a banned organisation, and somebody is making an allegation here on record, you have to confirm it,” the court told the attorney general. “You file an affidavit by tomorrow.” Venugopal agreed to the direction and said that he will place the Intelligence Bureau report before the court.

PS Narasimha, representing the intervenors supporting the farm laws, raised the matter of separatist elements in the farmers’ protest. He submitted that groups such as “Sikhs for Justice” were involved in the protests. The Centre had banned the group in July 20019 for its alleged anti-national activities.

Besides Narasimha, various Bharatiya Janata Party leaders have claimed that Khalistani separatists had infiltrated the protests. Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar had in November claimed that his government has “inputs” on the presence of the separatists in the farmers’ agitation. He had also claimed to have access to video and audio clips where protestors can be heard raising slogans like, “Jab Indira Gandhi ko ye kar sakte hain, to Modi ko kyu nahi kar sakte? [Why can’t we do this to Modi, if we have done it to Indira Gandhi?]”.

Later in November, BJP’s Information Technology Cell head Amit Malviya had also claimed that the farmers’ protests have “Khalistani and Maoist” links. Another leader of the saffron party, Manoj Tiwari, had claimed that the “tukde-tukde gang” was trying to turn the demonstrations by farmers in Delhi into Shaheen Bagh-like protests. The term is often used by BJP and Hindutva leaders for individuals and groups, who they claim, have secessionist intentions.

None of them, however, had provided any evidence to support their claims.

Notice on plea seeking to stop tractor rally on Republic Day

During the hearing, the Supreme Court also issued notices on the Delhi Police’s application seeking to stop the proposed tractor rally by protesting farmers on Republic Day. The matter will taken up for hearing on January 18.

After citing the concerns over the presence of separatists, Venugopal expressed apprehensions over the large group of people that would present during the tractor rally in the national Capital. “There is no question of huge group of 1 lakh people entering the city on the Republic Day,” he told the court. “We can’t say where all they will go.”

The court, however, replied that it was within the power of the police to see where the protestors were going or any separatist, if present, had arms with them.

On Monday, the Centre had moved the Supreme Court, seeking an injunction against the proposed tractor rally, saying any disruption caused on the occasion would be a “huge embarrassment for the nation”.

“The January 26 Republic Day ceremony is not an isolated standalone ceremony rather a grand rehearsal takes place on January 23 where everything which is to happen on January 26 of each year is rehearsed,” the application said. “Any disruption or obstruction in the said functions would not only be against the law and order, public order, public interest but would also be a huge embarrassment for the nation.”

Tens of thousands of farmers have been camping out on the outskirts of Delhi for more than a month, with at least eight rounds of talks between the government and farmers’ groups failing to resolve the deadlock. The two sides are set to next meet on Friday. Farmers have promised to march during Republic Day celebrations on January 26, if the government does not repeal the laws that they say would benefit large corporate buyers at their expense.