All mandis across Punjab stayed shut on Tuesday in protest against Income Tax department’s crackdown in which 7 arhtiyas were raided and notices/summons sent to 14.
Effigies of PM Narendra Modi were also burnt at some mandis, while most preferred to observe a silent protest with posters that read ‘Kale kanoon vapas lawo (scrap black laws)’.
According to Federation of Arhtiyas Association (FAA) president Vijay Kalra, crop was neither sold nor purchased at grain markets in the state.
On Tuesday, the executive body of FAA also announced a visit to the Singhu border on Wednesday so as to have meetings with all farmer union leaders.
“After meeting them, we will decide the next course of action. Farmer unions have already supported us and they have stated that they will participate with us in our protest dharnas, rallies against I-T officials. We will declare the entire programme on Wednesday evening after discussing with them,” said Amarjeet Singh Brar, president of FAA’s Moga branch while talking to The Indian Express.
He added, “I-T officials searched the premises of our federation members including our state president Vijay Kalra. We feel that this step was to intimidate us. But now we are all charged up and ready to support farmers with more zeal. We are not going to step back at all.”
Brar and Kalra were at Dhuri Tuesday afternoon to be at the bhog ceremony of one Krishan Kumar, who was working as an accountant at an ahrtiya’s shop in Dhuri in Sangrur district and had died at the Singhu protest site.
Kalra said, “Gathering was unexpected at this spot, we are united like never before. Tuesday afternoon, Kumar’s family was given Rs 11 lakh out of which Rs 5 lakh was from Punjab government, Rs 5 lakh from FAA and Rs 1 lakh from SGPC’s side. Kumar was part of a protest at Singhu border. He was in his mid-60s and he had a heart attack on December 10 at Singhu border. He could not be saved, though he was taken to the hospital for medical help.”
FAA vice president Jatinder Garg said that among the protesters who have died there are several members of the ahrtiya fraternity.
Punjab Cabinet Minister Vijayinder Singla also attended the bhog ceremony.
“All arhtiyas were on strike. They kept their shops shut,” said Ravinder Singh Cheema, president of the Punjab Arhtiya Association. Cheema accused the Centre of taking “revengeful” action against commission agents for supporting the farmers’ agitation.
“We are not going to be scared with this action of the Income Tax department. We will continue to support farmers,” said a commission agent in Bathinda. Commission agents said they had told farmers in advance not to bring their crop to grain markets.
Arhtiyas said that farmers have also extended their support to them. If any raid is conducted, then farmer leaders and commission agents will gherao income tax officials, they said. A 5-member team of the FAA has been set up to coordinate with the rest association members for gheraoing the officials. The FAA has also decided to contribute money in case I-T department imposes penalty on any ahrtiya.
The five-member team of ahrtiyas that will be meeting farmers on Wednesday includes Vijay Kalra, Amarjeet Singh Brar, Sukhwinder Singh Cheema , Mahavir Singh, Jatinder Garg and Naresh Bhardwaj.
There are around 24,000 licensed commission agents in the state.
Those whose offices or homes have been raided so far include Pawan Kumar Goyal (President Samana Mandi), Jaswinder Singh Rana (Patiala Dist President), Manjinder Singh Walia (President NawanshaharMandi ), Hardeep Singh Ladda (President Rajpura Mandi), Kartar Singh & Amrik Singh (Arthiyas of Rajpura mandi) and Vijya Kalra, the president of FAA.
Punjab Minister on hunger strike
Vijay Inder Singla, Punjab Education Minister will be sitting on a hunger strike in Sangrur grain market on December 23 from 9.30 am to 4 pm in support of farmers’ protest against farm laws.
He said, “December 23 is farmers day and hence, I will be showing my respect to farmers by observing the hunger strike for a day. Ahrtiyas of Sangrur will also be joining me on this day.”
(With PTI Inputs)