Shiromani Akali Dal leader Sukhbir Singh Badal on Saturday slammed the centre for attempting to "intimidate farmer leaders and supporters" over agency probe summons received yesterday.
Farmer leader Baldev Singh Sirsa and actor Deep Sidhu were among the 40 people summoned by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in a case linked to the outlaw outfit Sikhs for Justice. The actor, among the others, has been rallying for the protesting farmers against the agri reforms and asked to appear before the agency in Delhi today.
In response to the investigation, Badal said that the government of India is "trying to tire out farmers".
"Strongly condemn the centre's attempts to intimidate farmer leaders and supporters of Kisan Andolan (farmers' protest) by calling them for questioning by NIA and ED (Enforcement Directorate). They aren't anti-nationals. And after failure of talks for the 9th time, it's absolutely clear that GOI (the Government of India) is only trying to tire out farmers," he tweeted on Saturday.
Strongly condemn Centre's attempts to intimidate farmer leaders & supporters of #KisanAndolan by calling them for questioning by #NIA & ED. They aren't anti-nationals. And after failure of talks for the 9th time, it's absolutely clear that GOI is only trying to tire out farmers. pic.twitter.com/3x5T8VNdph— Sukhbir Singh Badal (@officeofssbadal) January 16, 2021
Sikhs for Justice is a US-based pro-Khalistani group, which was banned by the government of India in July 2019 under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for "anti-India activities".
Officials of Khalsa Aid, a non-profit, have also been summoned by the NIA in the same case. The group issued a statement yesterday saying that it will cooperate with the agency.
"We are deeply concerned to learn of the summons being issued by the NIA to individuals involved in the farmer's protest, ranging from bus drivers to union leaders all have been summoned to appear before the NIA, being investigated as being 'anti-national' and supporting terrorism. Our Khalsa Aid India team on the ground have also been summoned and are being questioned/investigated...Our team will cooperate and answer any queries raised by the NIA team," it said.
The investigation charges come amid intensifying farmers' protest as centre-farmer talks remained at a standstill after nine rounds of negotiations. Farmers from Punjab, Haryana and other states have been staging protests against the contentious new farm laws at Delhi borders since November last year.
Some BJP leaders have claimed that the farmers are being "misled" and also chalked up the resistance to "pro-Khalistani" and "anti-national" markers in the large-scale unrest.
The Supreme Court of India had stayed the implementation of the contentious farm laws and formed a four-member committee to resolve the matter between the protesting farmers and the centre.
Farmers have stuck to their demand of withdrawing the farm laws, raising concerns that these legislations would weaken the minimum support price (MSP) and "mandi" (wholesale market) systems and leave them at the mercy of big corporations. The tenth round of talks is expected to take place on January 19.