Farmers' representatives have accused the Centre of using the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to target people supporting the ongoing protest against the three controversial farm laws.
The farm unions raised this issue in the ninth round of talks with Centre at New Delhi's Vigyan Bhawan on Friday, 15 January. The discussions remained inconclusive, with the Centre refusing to discuss the repeal of the three laws and the farmers’ representatives refusing to settle for amendments.
“Transporters from Punjab are being summoned by NIA just as a way to put pressure on the protests. We raised this issue with the ministers,” one of the farmers’ representatives present at the meeting told The Quint.
Abhimanyu Kohar of Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh told freelance journalist Sandeep Singh that "farmers and people who sent funds for those who were martyred in the protests have been sent notices by the NIA.”
“We raised this issue and told ministers that the government wants to muzzle the dissent,” he said.
The NIA has issued notices to several individuals in Punjab in connection with an FIR against US-based outfit Sikhs For Justice.
One of them is farm union leader Baldev Singh Sirsa. In response to the summons, he said that this is part of the government’s attempts to derail the protests.
Actor Deep Sidhu and his brother, who have been involved with the protests, are also said to have been issued summons.
The other people, whose notices The Quint has accessed, include a tourist bus operator, a nut bolt manufacturer and a cable TV operator. However, notices have been sent to other people as well, including a journalist and a few people working for NGOs.
“This is sheer harassment. We have no links whatsoever with any anti-national activity,” one of the people summoned told The Quint.
This must also be seen in line with the statement made by the government through the Attorney General in Supreme Court earlier this week, that "Khalistanis have infiltrated the protests."
The Unions, who have a history of being opposed to pro-Khalistan elements, say that this is nothing but an attempt to malign the protests.
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has also accused the Centre of using the NIA to harass protesting farmers.
What Does the FIR say?
The concerned FIR 40/2020 was filed on 15 December 2020 in Delhi against three accused – Gurpatwant Singh Pannu from the US, Paramjit Singh Pamma, who is based in the UK, and Hardeep Singh Nijjar from Canada. Pannu is the head of Sikhs for Justice.
The FIR says: "The central government has received information that Sikhs for Justice an 'Unlawful Association under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and other Khalistani terrorist outfits including but not limited to Babbar Khalsa International, Khalistan Tiger Force and Khalistan Zindabad Force along with their frontal organisations have entered into a conspiracy to create an atmosphere of fear and lawlessness and to cause disaffection in people and to incite them towards rising in rebellion against the Government of India".
The FIR further alleges that "funds are being collected abroad" for furtherance of this 'conspiracy'.
"Large amounts of funds so collected are being sent through Non-Governmental Organisations to pro-Khalistani elements based in India, incite impressionable youth to undertake terrorist acts and to strike terror in the people of India," the FIR further alleges.