President, Lok Morcha Punjab
The peasants’ organizations in Punjab have been in the forefront in the struggle against the anti-people new economic policies of globalization, liberalization and privatization. They have fought for remunerative prices for agricultural produce, its procurement by state agencies, writing off farm loans, and against arrests of farmers due to non-payment of farm loans advanced by Cooperative Societies, attachments and sales of their lands at the instances of Commission Agents and money lenders etc. They have also led glorious struggles against setting up of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in the state, forcible acquisition of agricultural land for setting up giant industrial complexes, power projects, multi-lane roads etc. and against unbundling and ultimate privatization of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB). Faced with stiff resistance from the farmers’ organization, the Punjab Government was forced to abandon or curtail many projects. Irritated at this, the Akali-BJP Government in Punjab launched a massive offensive against the organizations of the farmers. A large number of leaders and activists of these organizations were implicated in false criminal cases. On September 8 2009, when Bharatiya Kisan Union Ekta (Ugrahan) held a massive demonstration at Chandigarh to oppose unbundling of the State Electricity Board, 4 FIRs were registered against all of its State Office-bearers. The leaders of Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union and Lok Morcha Punjab were also implicated in these cases. Hundreds of farmers were injured in the brutal lathicharge by the police. Their vehicles were badly damaged. As a result of the police brutalities, four persons lost their lives. The sacrifices of these farmers did not go in vain. Akali-BJP Govt was forced to postpone the unbundling/ corporatisation of the PSEB, till mid-December.
Now as the day of reckoning is reaching near, and the farmers’ organizations have started mobilizing the people against the privatization of the PSEB, the Akali-BJP Govt has launched another attack. On November 17 2009, President of BKU (Krantikari), Sh Surjit Singh Phul was arrested from the court premises when he had gone there to attend a hearing. The police would have kept him in illegal confinement and subjected to torture, but the democratic-minded advocates and farmer activists approached the Sub Divisional Judicial Magistrate (SDJM) and apprised him of the illegal act of the police. The SDJM immediately called the SHO of the concerned police station. Fearing exposure, the police registered a case under Section 10, 13 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against Mr. Surjit Singh, branded him a member of the CPI (Maoist), planning to illegally overthrow the Government through armed struggle. He was immediately arrested in this case. Next day the police obtained his custody for 8 days by producing him before the Magistrate at his residence after court hours, and he was immediately sent to the infamous Joint Investigation Centre, Amritsar, which is Punjab’s Guantanamo.
On November 26 2009, Mr. Surjit Singh was to be produced before the SDJM Phul for further remand. The police with a view to hoodwink his lawyers, made elaborate security arrangements at Phul Courts. Riot-police commandoes in full battle gear were deployed not only in and around the court-premises, but also on all entrances of the town, and at important road-junctions leading to this town throughout the district. But it was merely a drama. In fact the police filed an application before the District and Sessions Judge Bathinda, expressing false and baseless apprehensions that people at Phul might take away Mr. Surjit Singh forcibly from the police, and obtained permission to produce him before the CJM at Bathinda. The real intention was to deprive Mr. Surjit Singh of any legal aid and exposure of the third degree methods adopted by the police. The police succeeded in obtaining his remand in its custody for another 8 days till December 3 2009.
As soon as this information reached his lawyers, who were camping at Phul Town, they immediately moved the court to obtain permission to meet Surjit Singh in police custody and for his interrogation only in the presence of his lawyers. The court allowed the lawyers to meet him on November 26 and 27, and informed the police about this order. But the police did not care about the Court’s order and sent him to Joint Interrogation Centre, Amritsar again without informing the Court. When the lawyers tried to contact the Investigating Officer to fix the venue of the meeting, he switched off his mobile phone.
On November 27, the lawyers filed another application before the CJM Bathinda, seeking initiation of contempt of court proceedings against the police officials, and fixing new time and date for meeting with Surjit Singh. Acting on this application, the court granted permission to the lawyers, to meet Mr Surjit Singh during his detention at Joint Interrogation Centre Amritsar, everyday from 5 to 6 PM from November 30 onwards.
Although the game-plan of the police has been foiled for the present, but its attack can be repulsed only by mobilizing masses against these anti-people, undemocratic, and repressive measures.