In show of solidarity with protesting farmers, Parkash Singh Badal returns Padma Vibhushan

In a letter to the President Ram Nath Kovind said, “I am who I am because of the people, especially the common farmer. Today when he has lost more than his honour, I see no point in holding on to the Padma Vibhushan honour."

In a show of solidarity with the protesting farmers against the contentious farm bills, former Chief Minister of Punjab and Shiromani Akali Dal leader Parkash Singh Badal returned his Padma Vibhushan on Thursday.

In a letter to the President Ram Nath Kovind, Badal said, “I am who I am because of the people, especially the common farmer. Today when he has lost more than his honour, I see no point in holding on to the Padma Vibhushan honour.”

Badal said the farmers were waging a bitter struggle in the severe cold just to secure their fundamental right to life. Badal said he had known the award conferred to him to be an acknowledgement of his “commitment to the people in which the farmers featured most prominently”. “I owe it to them,” he wrote.

Badal said he was deeply pained over the “betrayal” of farmers by the Union government and its “shocking indifference and contempt” with which it had been treating the agitation of the farmers against the agriculture acts.

“When the Government of India had brought the Ordnances, assurances were given that the farmers’ apprehensions on these Ordinances would be addressed to their satisfaction while bringing the relevant Bills and subsequently the Acts. Trusting these assurances, I even appealed to the farmers to believe the Government’s word. But I was shocked when the Government simply went back on its word. I feel so poor that I do not have much else to sacrifice to express solidarity with the farmers’ cause,” Badal added.

SAD had walked out of its alliance with BJP at the Centre in September after the farm ordinance were pushed through Parliament by the Modi government, triggering widespread protests in Punjab and Haryana.

Asserting that the Centre had turned a blind eye to the situation, he went on to say such a massive uproar by the farmers could have moved a government in any other country. “The spectacle of hundreds of thousands of farmers crying out for justice in one voice in the national capital would have moved any other nation or its government. Tragically, no such sensitivity towards the farmers’ pain and anger is visible here,” he said

Badal came down heavily on the government, pointing out that while “corporate loans worth lakhs of crores are waived off with just a single thoughtless stroke of the governmental pen, no one has ever thought of even subsiding the farm debts, forget a complete waiver. Instead, the country chose to let its annadata (food provider) die”.

Badal regretted that the pleas of farmer-friendly parties like the SAD were mocked. “It was cynically suggested that farmers take loans just for ostentatious lifestyle. This cruel cynicism and malice against the farmers did not stop even when thousands of farmers in this country were and are being driven to take their own lives in a phenomenon called farmer suicides.”

He said “the black laws now implemented by the government” was “the proverbial last nail in the coffin of the country’s annadata”.

“The farmers are out on the streets battling police batons, tear gas shells and water cannons even as their sources of livelihood dry up. They have come to the national Capital from all over the country, leaving their fields, crops and even their families and travelled long distances – thousands of kilometers in some cases – to get the attention of their own government. They have shown incredible and unprecedented restraint, maturity and responsibility in keeping their protests totally peaceful and democratic,” he said.

The former Chief Minister said he was deeply hurt to see “conspiracies and vicious propaganda” being unleashed to give the peaceful struggle an anti-national colour and hoped for an intervention by President Ram Nath Kovind in favour of the farmers.

“As an optimist, I like to hope that you will win the confidence of these farmers as well as strengthen the secular democratic fabric of our great country,” he wrote to President Kovind.

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