Govt. Succumbs To Mass Uprising In Sangrur, Agrees To Release Bhana Sidhu

by Rajinder Singh Taggar

A significant people’s uprising against the Punjab government arose during the last fortnight in a part of the Malwa belt of the state when the police arrested Bhana Sidhu, a social media celebrity famous for taking up cudgels against fraud travel agents who promised to send people abroad but did not.

On January 3, 2024, masses thronged Sangrur to ‘gherao’ Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann’s residence in Dream Land Colony but were stopped by police about one kilometre away. Several farmers’ organisation leaders were put under house arrest a day before. In a few places, incidents of clashes between Bhana supporters and police were witnessed, impacting the image of the government, especially the CM. Sangrur constituency sent Bhagwant Mann to Parliament twice.

Seeing the mass mobilisation in the Sangrur pocket of the Malwa belt, better sense prevailed, and the government agreed to release peoples’ darling by January 10th after solving legal requirements of cancelling 4 FIRs registered one after the other on the complaints coming from travel agents against whom the activist took direct action to get victims’ money retrieved.

DGP Gaurav Yadav, along with his team of senior police officers, kept himself stationed in Sangrur on the protest day and ultimately succeeded in defusing the situation by reaching an agreement with gangster-turned-activist Lakha Sadhana, anti-drug task force head Parminder Singh Jhota, ‘Kisan’ leaders Surjit Singh Phool, Jaswinder Singh Longowal and others to release with next seven days. Additional Director General of Police Jaskaran Singh led the police team during the negotiations.However, the worrisome part of the mass upsurge was the infiltration of radicals in the protest, which raised pro-Khalistan slogans. The most prominent Khalistani leader in the protest was Member of Parliament, Simranjit Singh Mann, while ‘Waris Punjab De’ members headed by jailed Khalistani Amritpal Singh too were part of the crowd. From the Congress side, only MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira came out in the open to support Bhana’s release. No prominent leader of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) participated.

A journalist covering the protest reported that Sangrurites and people from adjoining districts were full of angst, targeting Bhagwant Mann and calling him names. The tide against the government from this backward district is likely to impact the results of the coming parliamentary elections; the journalist told
Candidly speaking on the Bhana issue, a senior police officer said on January 3, the day of protest, “ki kariye shaasak samajhata nahi (what to do, the ruler does not understand)”.

An officer bearer of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) said, “Nobody knew about such a huge popularity of Bhana. Otherwise, the CM would have acted differently. But now the damage is done.”

Rajinder Singh Taggar

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