LUDHIANA

Joint media briefings, speaking from each other’s stages: A first for two key farm unions of Punjab

For the first time since the farmers’ stir began, the Bharti Kisan Union (Ugrahan) and Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (KMSC) have started holding press conferences together every alternate day. Moreover, speakers of both unions have also started speaking on each other’s stages — which are around 30 km apart.

Both unions are based in Punjab. BKU (Ugrahan) has a large base in Malwa region while KMSC is more active in Majha Punjab. Their protest stages will stay separate as before, but the evening media briefing will be done jointly.

The first such joint press conference took place on Friday (December 18) from the Kundli border and the second one happened on Sunday (December 20). On Monday, no press conference was organised, but Joginder Singh Ugrahan, president of BKU (Ugrahan) and Satnam Singh Pannu, president of KMSC, issued a joint press statement.

On Saturday, Sarwan Singh Pandher, general secretary, KMSC, had spoken from the stage of BKU (Ugrahan) at Tikri border while on Sunday, Joginder Singh Ugrahan, president BKU (Ugrahan), had spoken from the stage of KMSC at Kundli border. Though in Punjab, both unions had earlier also organised many programmes jointly, they have never sat together to address the media or issued joint statements. Their state-level office-bearers have never spoken from each other’s stages.

Satnam Singh Pannu, president of KMSC, said, “Yes, such an exercise to talk with media on a common platform is being done for the first time, but it is being done for better coordination over a common issue which are farm laws. In addition to this, our state body never used to speak from each other’s stages though our workers used to participate in each other’s programs sometimes.”

Jhanda Singh, senior vice-president of BKU (Ugrahan), said, “In September, when we had organised morcha outside former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal’s house and in PUDA ground at Patiala, KMSC jatha had joined in our dharna and few of their speakers had also spoken from our stage. Later, we coordinated with them for ‘Rail roko’ from September 24 to 26 at 11 different locations of Punjab. In August, we had coordinated with them over the ‘Jail bharo aandolan’ call of KMSC while even in the past, we had coordinated with them over many issues related to farmers where our unions had organised protests though separately but had agreed to each other’s calls.”

However, while a few block or district-level speakers had spoken from Ugrahan’s stage in the past, no speaker of the Ugrahan group has spoken from KMSC’s stage before.

Jhanda Singh, “Yes we had never addressed media jointly and this has happened for the first time. Our issue is on farm laws and hence we are addressing.”

Meanwhile, the rest of the 32 farm unions of Punjab organise their common press conference with union leaders of other states under the banner of the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) every evening from Singhu border. Ugrahan group and KMSC are not part of SKM so far, though they coordinate with each other over various issues.

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“Our coordination with the rest of the 32 farmer unions is also going on. Our decisions over the farm laws struggle are taken in coordination,” said Jhanda Singh.

Sarwan Singh Pandher, general secretary of KMSC, said, “We have an old association with the Ugrahan group and are in coordination with the rest of the 32 farm unions as well.”

Help to Haryana farmers

Meanwhile on Monday, Pannu and Ugrahan in a joint statement said, “Coordinating with the call of SKM to intensify protests in the future, we will organise our independent protests, where we will support Haryana farmers in their protests at all toll plazas of Haryana to make them toll free from December 25 to 27. We will also go to villages to organise meetings in coordination with Haryana farmers. In the same way, we will also coordinate with Haryana farmers in gheraoing BJP leaders of Haryana.”

Regarding the fresh letter from Centre, both in a joint statement said, “Centre is stuck to their old talks of amendments which we have already discarded. However, we will discuss with the rest of the unions the Centre’s invitation to talk over farm laws and decide accordingly.”

They further said: “Regarding the intention to protest during PM’s Mann ki Baat speech, the mode can be as per a person’s desire…it can be to sing a revolutionary song or raise slogans against Centre.”

Jagmohan Singh Dakaunda, working committee member of the All India Kisan Sangrash Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) has asked all unions to come under a common platform a number of times in the past.

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