Lakha Sidhana, who is wanted in connection with the violence in Delhi on Republic Day, Tuesday attended a public meeting in Punjab’s Bathinda in support of the ongoing farmers’ agitation against the Centre’s agri laws and openly gave out a call for ‘defiance’. A video clip showed him seated on the dais along with an AAP Kultar Singh Sandhawa and Punjabi singer Kuldeep Manik’s son Yudhvir Manak.
“I am with the morcha on the issue of farm laws. I am with them,’’ Sidhana announced as he surfaced at the rally despite a lookout notice from the Delhi police.
“Don’t let the Delhi police bother you. Detain the policemen who come to arrest you in your villages. We won’t allow this to happen,’’ he announced to scores of supporters gathered there.
The gangster-turned-activist had given a call for the public meeting in Bathinda’s Mehraj village – the native village of Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh – last week. There was speculation whether Sidhana would take part in the public meeting as he is wanted by the Delhi Police for his alleged role in the violence that broke out during a tractor parade called by farmer unions on January 26 demanding the repeal of the agri laws.
Significantly, there was hardly any police presence at the rally barring a few constables. “We have no idea about the rally. If the Delhi police had wanted, they could have come to arrest him. We would have assisted. We have no information,’’ said a police officer in the district.
And much like his appearance, Sidhana’s disappearance was equally dramatic. After addressing the gathering, he sped off on a two-wheeler with his supporters providing a ‘security cover’.
The rally has also brought to the fore the ‘loosening’ control of the mainline farmer groups over the agitation. “The fact that he managed to rope in such big numbers despite the Kisan Morcha appealing against it, shows their loosening of grip over the stir and hardline elements taking centre stage gradually,’’ commented an official.
Thousands of protesters had clashed with the police during the Republic Day violence. Many of the protesters reached the Red Fort and entered the monument, and some of them even hoisted religious flags on its domes and a flagstaff at the ramparts. In a video that appeared on social media on Saturday, Sidhana had appealed to people to take part in the programme in large numbers.
The former gangster had several cases registered against him in Punjab and was jailed many times. He had unsuccessfully contested the 2012 state assembly polls.