Bereft of any substantial political narrative or real achievement to highlight, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its toady media outlets are resorting to extreme eccentricity to baffle its voters in the poll-bound provinces, especially Uttar Pradesh. Now the BJP has got a new klaxon to blow– the alleged breach in Modi’s security during his Punjab visit on Wednesday, January 5th 2022.
It has been reported several times in the media since Wednesday that Modi, who was travelling from Punjab’s Bathinda to the National Martyrs Memorial in Hussainiwala, Firozpur district, via road, as his helicopter couldn’t take off due to bad weather conditions, was stuck in a traffic jam at a flyover as some agitating farmers’ organisations had blocked the road ahead. Modi’s convoy had to return to Bathinda from the flyover. This is the alleged breach in Modi’s security during his Punjab visit over which a brouhaha has been stirred.
The political bottom-line is, Prime Minister Modi had to run away after he spotted valiant Punjabi farmers protesting on the road against his government’s policies that aim to ruin their lives and livelihoods. According to the Punjabi farmers’ narrative, it’s the “threat” to their lives and livelihoods that had to run away after facing resistance in Punjab. There were no threats posed to Modi by the unarmed farmers who were raising slogans against his government.
What did the high-voltage political drama expose?
While the BJP and the mainstream media are creating a ruckus over the alleged breach in Modi’s security during his Punjab visit, blaming the state’s Congress party-led government and Chief Minister Charanjit Channi—a Dalit Sikh—for the alleged lapse, the facts show that not only a mountain has been made out of a molehill, but the BJP has also shattered the very halo of invincibility that was created by it around Modi’s perceived brand image.
Modi, the man who boasted of his “56-inch chest” and epitomised the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-led Hindutva fascist camp’s toxic masculinity and magnanimity, fears India’s unarmed farmers! The man whom BJP calls a “Pakistan-basher” to titillate its jingoistic upper-caste Hindu vote bank, fears farmers protesting his government’s pro-corporate policies just 10km away from the Pakistan border! That’s the key takeaway from Wednesday’s incident.
Why was Modi scared of the farmers? Why did he claim that he had “managed to escape alive” from Punjab? Why did he rush to President Ram Nath Kovind to complain about this road blockade? Why the BJP workers had started praying for Modi’s long life? Why is a petition filed in the Supreme Court? How all BJP chief ministers have joined a concerted attack against Punjab? Are these spontaneous unfolding of affairs or are these parts of a greater political scheme?
Punjab: a distant dream for the BJP, thanks to the farmers
The Congress party’s leaders have been alleging that as the BJP is isolated in Punjab after its oldest ally Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) dumped it last year over Modi’s contentious farm laws, it is resorting to cheap tricks to gain public support and sympathy. However, such attempts are doomed anyways as the farmers of Punjab have suffered macabre atrocities under Modi and are unwilling to forgive him and the BJP.
During his visit to Firozpur, Modi was supposed to address an election rally of the BJP. However, photographs from the venue showed that none, except a few, have turned up for Modi’s rally. Modi’s convoy was tailed by a caravan of BJP carrying hired men and women from neighbouring BJP-ruled Haryana and Congress-ruled Rajasthan who were to supplement the crowd.
The rally was called off by Modi after he failed to reach Firozpur. The BJP cited “bad weather” as the reason, but Channi claimed that Modi created the ruckus and the BJP called off the rally as there was no crowd at the venue. It’d have been a major embarrassment for Modi if he had to address an empty ground. To avoid this, Modi is blaming the Congress party and calling the farmers a “threat” to his life.
Through a 378-day-long sit-in demonstration at Delhi’s borders, farmers from Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh forced the Modi regime to repeal its contentious farm laws as well as accept most of the demands of the farmers in writing. The farmers have paused their demonstration at Delhi’s borders until January 15th 2022 and will decide on the future course after reviewing the government’s response.
The movement is continuing locally, as the farmers are demanding the speedy delivery of justice to the kin of 700 farmers who died fighting against the Modi regime during the agitation at New Delhi’s borders. The Union government has passed the buck on the States, which also must manage the funds for such compensation. Modi didn’t expect to meet such a massive people’s resistance on his way to Firozpur.
He thought that the Punjabis will forget their humiliation at his government’s hands and will move on. The agitating farmers, who blocked his way, smashed that hallucination. Punjab didn’t forget its fallen sons and daughters; it didn’t forget Modi’s hubris and his brutality as well.
The farmers continue to fight their crusade against the Modi regime
Since Sunday, January 2nd 2022, protests erupted in Punjab’s rural belts as the farmers felt cheated due to Modi’s non-fulfilment of promises. Different factions of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), like BKU (Ekta-Ugrahan), BKU (Krantikari), BKU (Dakaunda) and Kirti Kisan Union (KKU) have been agitating against Modi’s visit and his government’s deliberate delays in taking affirmative actions as per its assurances. The farmers have burned the effigies of Modi and stopped the buses ferrying BJP supporters and hired crowds from neighbouring Haryana and Rajasthan for the Firozpur rally.
It was the BKU (Krantikari) that blocked the elevated road near Piareana village in Firozpur from 10.30 am on Wednesday after the Punjab Police stopped them from marching to the district collector’s office. The farmers didn’t know that Modi was stuck in the traffic due to their blockade. Even when the Punjab Police came to inform them about Modi’s so-called “ordeal”, they didn’t believe it to be true. According to BKU (Krantikari) Punjab president Surjeet Singh Phul, no one knew Modi will travel by road, as they thought he will fly to Firozpur in a helicopter as a helipad has been built there.
Surjeet Singh Phul, Punjab president of BKU (Krantikari) describing the incident of January 5th 2022.
“The protestors, led by BKU (Krantikari) and some members of our union, Krantikari Kisan Union (KKU), did not believe the local police when they urged them to lift the blockade, saying that PM Modi’s cavalcade was not getting the right of way to reach Firozpur. The decision to hold protests across Punjab, with maximum concentration in Firozpur was taken by ten unions, including BKU (Ekta-Ugrahan), in a joint meeting held at Barnala on December 31st”, Darshan Pal, the KKU president, said.
Anti-Sikh vitriol: the cat is out of the RSS’s bag
Vilifying the farmers, the BJP and the RSS launched a large-scale vitriolic campaign, which also issued veiled threats of genocide against the Sikh community. Many BJP stalwarts and supporters threatened the Sikh community with dire consequences and reminded them of the 1984 anti-Sikh massacre.
In this article, The Quint has listed the vitriol against the Sikh community spread on social media by the BJP officials from their handles. Abhijeet Singh Sanga, the BJP’s MLA from Uttar Pradesh’s Bithoor, had tweeted, “Don’t make the mistake of considering him Indira Gandhi. Shri Narendra Damodardas Modi is his name. You won’t even get a paper to write on or history to read.” Others also threatened the Sikh community with a pogrom that would be gorier than the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom.
The Sikh community suffered a major state-sponsored pogrom after October 31st 1984 when the Sikh bodyguards of former prime minister Indira Gandhi assassinated her to avenge the bloodbath at the holy shrine of Golden Temple. Though the BJP and the RSS were complicit in the pogrom, which was organised and managed by the then ruling Congress party, they now use the instance to lambast the Congress party.
Though the RSS’s Hindutva fascist ideology considers the Sikh religion as an integral part of the Brahminical Sanatana Dharma, the Sikhs consider themselves distinct and oppose such cannibalising efforts. Failing to woo the Sikhs on its side using Islamophobia, the frustrated RSS has now started peddling hatred against the community.
With these genocidal threats against the Sikh community for the alleged breach in Modi’s security during his Punjab visit, the RSS has exposed its extreme abhorrence for the Sikh community. The Sikh people throughout India can see through this prism of hatred and realise how the RSS-led Hindutva fascists only want to use them as pawns against the Muslims.
The political drama that followed the alleged breach in Modi’s security
Though the farmers are accused of threatening Modi, they haven’t done anything close to what Modi did to them. Unlike Modi, the farmers didn’t place spikes on Modi’s way—as he did to Delhi’s borders, where farmers were camping—to flatten his luxury car’s tyres. They didn’t unleash police brutalities or fire tear gas shells at Modi. They didn’t attack him with batons and guns as well.
But these unarmed farmers had ensured that Modi remembers his humiliation in Punjab. They ensured that Modi reveals his cowardice by retreating from the spot and crying aloud playing the victim card. Baldev Singh Zira, general secretary of the BKU (Krantikari), congratulated the protesters for teaching the arrogant man a lesson. “He had place spikes on the borders of Delhi to prevent your march, you have now forced him to retreat”, Zira told the crowd after Modi’s cavalcade took a U-turn to return.
The involvement of an ultra-left farmers’ body like BKU (Krantikari) in halting Modi’s cavalcade is providing a new set of ammo to the BJP’s propaganda machinery. But then the BJP has been trying to portray all farmers’ organisations, the Congress government, the Punjab Police and Channi as collaborators in a purported heinous scheme.
The BJP is claiming that the Punjab government and Channi have been working with Pakistan and Khalistani separatists—Sikh extremists—to kill Modi. From BJP chief JP Nadda to Union Home Minister Amit Shah and other Union ministers like Smriti Irani and Pralhad Joshi, traded barbs with the Congress over the alleged breach in Modi’s security during his Punjab visit.
“Today’s Congress-made happening in Punjab is a trailer of how this party thinks and functions. Repeated rejections by the people have taken them to the path of insanity. The topmost echelons of the Congress owe an apology to the people of India for what they have done”, Shah said, while mentioning that the alleged dereliction of the security procedure during Modi’s visit is unacceptable and “accountability” will be fixed.
“Never before in the history of our country, a state govt knowingly constructed a scenario where the PM will be brought to harm. We know Congress hates Modi, but today they tried to harm the PM of India”, Irani had said.
Joshi also dragged the name of BJP turncoat Navjot Singh Sidhu, who had joined the Congress in 2017 and accused him of hatching a conspiracy along with Pakistan. “It is not an ordinary incident. You all know about the proximity of Punjab Congress leaders, especially Navjot Singh Sidhu, with Pakistani leaders. He embraces them”, Joshi accused.
They all condemned Channi and the Punjab government unequivocally and connected all invisible—and imaginary indeed—dots to build up a case. The alleged breach in Modi’s security 10 km away from the Pakistan border became a hotcake for sensation sellers. But none questioned what role did the Special Protection Group (SPG), an armed force under the Union Cabinet Secretariat, play in this fiasco?
Though the Indian States manage law and order within their territorial jurisdiction, the security of a prime minister is always handled by the SPG, which shares details with a province’s police force only when it considers it necessary. But none is asking questions to the SPG, but blaming the Punjab Police for the alleged breach in Modi’s security.
The Union government has been contemplating using the SPG Act, 1988 against the Punjab Police officials to intensify the BJP’s political battle. Though the Punjab government has set up a high-level committee to investigate the alleged breach in Modi’s security during his Punjab visit, the BJP leadership has rejected it.
Punjab BJP president Ashwani Sharma said, “We reject the committee set up by the Punjab government to investigate the matter.” Sharma met Punjab Governor Banwarilal Purohit and requested him to suspend the province’s home minister and the director-general of police (DGP). “This committee formed by the Chief Minister will never be able to find out anything because he himself is the ringleader of this conspiracy”, Sharma alleged.
Why is Modi scared when his government is policing 80% of Punjab?
Recently, Shah has amended the Border Security Force (BSF) Act. The BSF is a paramilitary force that guards India’s borders with Bangladesh and Pakistan. The amendment has extended the BSF’s jurisdiction to search, arrest and detain people within 50 km along the Bangladesh and Pakistan borders.
This amendment seriously meddles with the States’ rights as ‘Police’ and ‘Public Order’ are State subjects under the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India and therefore, it’s primarily the States’ duty to prevent, detect, register and investigate incidents of crime and prosecute such criminals.
By providing the BSF with the policing power in the 50 km area along the borders, the Union is virtually taking over the policing of these two non-BJP States into its own hands. Both Punjab and West Bengal governments have opposed this backdoor attempt to meddle with the States’ rights by the Union, which goes against the federal spirit of the Constitution.
The Punjab government has claimed that under this amendment, nearly 80% of Punjab will be governed by the Union, ie, the Modi government. Channi’s government has filed a lawsuit against the amendment in the Supreme Court under Article 131 of the Constitution.
While the BJP has been complaining that the alleged breach in Modi’s security during his Punjab visit happened 10 km from the Pakistan border, the location is now under the BSF’s territory. This means Modi was stuck in a place where the BSF commanded by Shah, his most-trusted lieutenant, has policing powers.
Moreover, Modi has been claiming that India’s borders are better secured under his rule. The BSF commanded by Shah must have been vigil enough to thwart any untoward incident planned by Pakistan. Then what made Modi panic, sitting in an armoured vehicle within the radius of the BSF’s security coverage? Aren’t the borders safer and highly secured under his rule?
Thus, there was nothing substantial to fuel Modi’s paranoia as it’s his BJP that’s controlling the security at the border and within Punjab. It’s another matter if Modi can’t have faith in the security arrangements made by the BJP-led government, including the SPG and the BSF.
Where is Modi-led BJP’s convoy heading?
The developments in Punjab and the BJP’s propaganda over the alleged breach in Modi’s security have occupied headlines. Though Punjab and the Congress party may appear as the ostensible targets of the BJP’s propaganda, the party’s real target is to woo the Hindu voters in the BJP-ruled provinces like Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, which are also going to polls with Punjab.
Uttar Pradesh is a do-or-die challenge for both the BJP and Modi. The one-year-long farmers’ movement shook the BJP’s foundation in western Uttar Pradesh and now it’s frantically trying to repolarise the Hindu vote bank and also weaken the unity of the farmers by demonising the Sikh farmers of Punjab.
But it’s too late for the BJP in western Uttar Pradesh, where a majority of Jat farmers, who earlier switched allegiance to the BJP, have ostracised the saffron camp altogether. Not only do they realise that the Modi regime’s promises are hollow and that the government can push back the infamous farm reforms through the backdoor again, but they are also participating in solidarity movements with the working class fighting against the new labour codes as well as opposing the privatisation of public sector banks.
In this situation, the hullaballoo over the alleged breach in Modi’s security during his Punjab trip can’t hoodwink most farmers in Uttar Pradesh, who remains firmly united with their agrarian community. The BJP and the RSS are facing unprecedented resistance and these stunts by Modi to win public sympathy can’t add up any real electoral value to the saffron camp’s kitty.