Jalandhar: A day after the leaders of Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), the umbrella body of farmers’ unions, asked the Nihang groups to leave the farmers’ protest following the killing of a man on the allegations of sacrilege of sacred scripture at the Singhu border, Nihang groups retorted that they did not join the protest on their invitation, nor will they leave based on their call.
Instead, Nihang groups put out a mobile number seeking suggestions from the public whether they should stay put at the Singhu border or not. They have also invited SKM leaders, farmers, labourer bodies, Sikh (panthic) organisations, Punjabi diaspora abroad to join them for a meeting at the Singhu border on October 27.
In an interview to BBC Punjabi, BKU leader Rakesh Tikait said, “Jo Nihang Fauj hai iski abhi zarurat nai hai, jab zarurat hogi to inko mangwa lenge. Jo ghatna huyi hai, ye ek dharmik ghatna hai iska kisani andolan se sambhand nai hai. Sarkar kabhi b mahaul kharab karwa sakti hai, ye jo bhi shadyantra tha, ye puran roop se sarkaro ki den hai (We do not require the ‘Nihang Fauj’ as of now. Whenever we will be in need, we will invite them. The incident (killing of Lakhbir Singh) which took place was a religious issue. It has no relation with farmers’ protest. Government can spoil the situation anytime. Whatever this conspiracy is, it was out and out the handiwork of the government).”
Not just Tikait, even another SKM leader Yogendra Yadav also stated that the morcha had no relation with the horrific killing of Lakhbir Singh by Nihangs. Tikait also emphasised that both SKM and Nihangs had clarified that it was their religious matter and not connected with the farmers’ protest.
Notably, the SKM has distanced itself from the Nihang group’s killing, inviting sharp reactions from people, activists and right groups. Social media has also been abuzz with the ‘Dalit Sikh’ and ‘Taliban’ angle of Lakhbir Singh’s killing, which Nihangs termed as a “religious issue” related to desecration of their ‘Sarbaloh Granth’.
However, responding to SKM leaders’ statements, Nihang leader Raja Raj Singh said, “We didn’t come here on the call given by any farmer union leader. We came to the Singhu border on our own to support farmers and labourers who are fighting for their rights and demanding the repeal of three farm laws. Our groups have invited the SKM leaders, farmers, Langar Sewa groups, various Sikh (panthic) bodies from Punjab and the Punjabi diaspora abroad on October 27 to give suggestions on this issue. Until they ask us, we will not leave. We have given our mobile number to the public (8360040070). Our request is that please share the number, people can call us or send messages and we will act accordingly,” he said.
He said that the sacrilege of Sarbaloh Granth was planned to damage the farmers’ protest. “A big conspiracy was hatched to end farmers’ protest. The big question is that who sent the man and who planned it? But I can also say it assuredly that the government will never let the truth come out in this case. However, we want to get to the root of this conspiracy and find out who is behind this incident,” he said.
The Nihang leader also lashed out at all those who were giving ‘Dalit’ and ‘Taliban’ angles to the case. He said that it wasn’t a Dalit issue, rather entirely a religious matter.
“People should avoid giving it a Dalit angle. And those who are terming it as a ‘Taliban’ incident, tell them to meet us. What was the Lakhimpur Kheri incident? Were they nationalists? Who killed our farmers? When Lakhbir Singh was killed it is we who got the FIR registered. We were charged under Section 302 and 34 IPC but did not run away after killing Lakhbir Singh rather surrendered before the police.
But when Union home minister for state Ajay Mishra Teni’s son was involved in the mowing down of farmers, they ran away and didn’t even appear before the police. Our Nihangs confessed that they killed Lakhbir Singh and they handed themselves to the police. Our plea is that government should not create more trouble rather focus on finding out who brought Lakhbir to Singhu border?” he asked.
Another Nihang leader said that they never had any personal animosity with Lakhbir Singh. “He dared to desecrate the holy scripture. There are allegations that we gave the ‘Nihang dress’ to the victim, which is totally wrong. We did not give him any dress, rather he stole it and then desecrated our scripture,” he added.
Responding to another SKM leader Yogendra Yadav’s statement that they have got nothing to do with Nihangs, Raja Raj Singh said, “SKM has made him an unnecessary hero. He is a BJP-RSS agent. He should prove that how many people are with him. People like Yogendra Yadav should keep his tongue in control. If people at the Singhu border want us to stay, we will stay, else we will go back. Moreover, farmers’ protest belongs to the entire world. Why should we leave the protest on some leader’s orders?” he asked.
To a query that All India Anti-Terrorist Front chairman, Maninderjit Singh Bitta, termed the Nihangs as “terrorists”, another Nihang leader questioned, “Where was Congress leader Bitta when Sikh youth, men and boys were being burnt alive by putting tyres around their necks and setting them on fire during the 1984 riots? Where was he when Sikh women were being raped? First, come and deliver justice on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. Till date, those riots-affected families could not settle down in life,” he lamented.
Raja Raj Singh also questioned Bitta as to where was he when four farmers and a journalist were crushed under the car of BJP leader Ajay Mishra Teni’s son Ashish Mishra.
“Bitta is calling us terrorists… I challenge him to come and talk to us. Congress massacred the Sikh community in such a gruesome manner that for 20 years, no weddings were held in Punjab. It is not us, rather people like him, who are terrorists, who killed our youth. At this moment, the Modi government is terrorist. Congress, which killed the Sikhs, is terrorist. All those who dare to desecrate the Guru Granth Sahib, Quran, Ramayan or any other scripture is a terrorist,” he added.
He also pointed out that Sikhs remained at the forefront voluntarily holding langars and saving lives during the Covid pandemic.
“Were we terrorists then? Recently five Sikh soldiers were martyred fighting terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir. All those who are forcibly killing people and putting people in jails are terrorists. Both Congress and BJP want to kill the people of India. We are Satyawadi. It is you, who are terrorists,” Raja Raj Singh said.
Ever since Lakhbir Singh’s killing took place at the Singhu border, an eerie silence has been prevailing there.
On reports of fewer people joining protests at the Singhu border, a farmer said, “People are staying as usual at the Singhu border. Farmers were already away in villages for paddy harvesting. Once the harvest season is over, the protest will witness the same crowds again. Moreover, we will be completing one year of farmers’ protest on November 26 and the gathering will be far more than one can assume.”