Punjab Seethes in Anger over BJP Narrative on Modi’s Safety
It’s Punjabiyat at work
Punjab is seething with anger over the reported remarks of Prime Minister Narendra Modi – “apne CM ko thanks kehna ki main Bathinda airport tak zinda laut paya” – and how an “anti Punjab” narrative is being spun over his failure to reach a rally in Ferozepur. Modi’s reaction is being taken as an insult, with the anger playing out in various forms.
Even as the party political slugfest continues on the issue, with BJP leaders trying to cash in on “sympathy” for Modi in various states, a video has surfaced that shows party supporters very close to Modi’s cavalcade shouting slogans in his support and waving BJP flags.
Punjabis are asking where was the danger to Modi’s life when it was his own partymen in close proximity to him, as his car could not go further because of a farmers’ blockade? They claim that the narrative to defame Punjab and its farmers stands exposed once again.
Modi’s reported statement and this video have had a multiplier impact on people’s anger, as they point to yet another attempt to defame the Punjabis, Sikhs and farmers.
Despite New Delhi having withdrawn the three “pro-corporate” farm laws after an over year-long agitation by the people of Punjab, anger remains on the martyrdom of those who died during the course of the agitation. There is also a lot of anger on things not having moved forward on the remaining issues as promised by Modi’s government.
Observers on the ground point out that there is a very interesting phenomenon of inclusiveness at work in the state, with Punjabis referring to all the martyrs as their own, whereas the deceased include 500 from Punjab and 200 from other states including Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.
The inclusiveness also transcends religious lines, as nobody is referring to them as Sikh or non-Sikh farmers. It is Punjabiyat at work, and the same is getting reflected in the outpouring of anger despite attempts by the right-wing government to present it otherwise.
People are asking more pertinent questions in response to Modi’s remarks. They say that the farmers who resorted to traffic blockades did so in a perfectly democratic manner. The questions raised are, did anyone even verbally threaten Modi? Was anyone carrying arms? Did anyone try to mob him? The outpouring has been tremendous on social media with sarcasm at its peak.
“How is Punjab at fault if people did not turn up in large numbers for his rally? He tried to turn around his failure to address a thinly attended rally to his advantage. The only thing on his mind is the assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh. His conduct will come up at all forums in Punjab in days to come as the people are seething with anger,” said activist Kanwaljit Khanna, who was instrumental in mobilising support for the farmers’ movement in the Jagraon area of the state.
Women too are angered by the playout. “There is already a lot of anger among women who have lost their men during the course of the farmers’ agitation. Even otherwise they see the BJP as a party that practises divisive politics, for which there is no space in Punjab. The temperament of the state and its people is completely different. They see Modi as a mascot of Hindutva,” underlined Amandeep Kaur of Istri Jagriti Manch.
Recounting the repeated attempts by the right wing and its tools to defame the farmers and Punjab in the course of the movement, she said that Modi’s recent visit has ended in yet another attempt in this direction.
“Even otherwise the women do not subscribe to the regressive outlook of Hindutva forces with regard to the female sex. There is also a perception that the farmers’ movement had stalled the agenda of hate and divisiveness, which has now taken off again if one looks at the recent attacks on Christians and the Bulli Bai app episodes.”
People are also saying that the hype created by the BJP to show that more and more people were joining and supporting the saffron party in Punjab also stands exposed, and the anger against Modi is expected to stall the process of politicians joining the party to a large extent. Sources said the politicians who have jumped over to the BJP recently from other parties are already facing public ire.
There is also a lot of anger over reports of threats calling for a repeat of 1984 – the anti Sikh pogrom organised after the assassination of Indira Gandhi – on social media. Dal Khalsa has come out urging the international community to monitor the threatening tone.
In its bulletin on January 5, the Sanyukta Kisan Morcha which is the umbrella organisation of farmer unions stated that while symbolic protests had been planned during Modi’s visit to Punjab, there was no programme to stop the Prime Minister or obstruct his program.
It further stated, “The farmers protesting there had no concrete information that the Prime Minister’s convoy was going to pass through. They got this information from the media after the Prime Minister's return.”
Referring to the video in circulation, the SKM said it is clear that the protesting farmers did not even make any effort to go towards the PM’s convoy. “Only a group with BJP flag and raising ‘Narendra Modi Zindabad’ slogan had reached near that convoy. Therefore, the threat to the life of the Prime Minister seems completely concocted,” the statement says.
It called it “a matter of great regret that to cover up the failure of his rally, the Prime Minister has tried to malign both the state of Punjab and the farmers' movement by using the pretext of ‘somehow his life was saved’. The whole country knows that if there is a threat to life, then it is of the farmers, from the likes of Ajay Mishra Teni becoming ministers and roaming freely. The SKM expects the Prime Minister of the country to not make such irresponsible statements keeping in mind the dignity of his post.”
Meanwhile, the BJP’s well-oiled political machine is trying to play up its narrative on a massive scale, with BJP leaders holding prayers for Modi’s longevity and propagating the same from various states. There are videos of a prayer posted on the BJP4Punjab twitter handle claiming to be from a gurdwara in Dehradun. Another prayer meeting was planned at the Nizamuddin dargah in Delhi on Friday.