Gujarat’s Sikh farmers say no to SAD help

Chandigarh: In an embarrassment of sorts for the Punjab Government, Sikh farmers of Gujarat have turned down its offer of legal assistance by state Advocate-General Ashok Aggarwal.

The farmers have made it clear they can “ never even think of engaging lawyers of Parkash Singh Badal’s choice,” till the time the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) is in alliance with the BJP.

Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal has been insisting that the Congress government preceding the Modi regime is responsible for the eviction of Punjabi families from Gujarat.

In an apparent attempt to prevent the issue being politicised any further, the farmers have also turned down the Congress offer on legal aid. The Punjab Government had yesterday asked its Advocate-General to assist the farmers before the Supreme Court.

The farmers have made it clear that they are not interested in a battery of lawyers promised by Punjab Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa.

The farmers said they were fighting Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi “who has intimidated, browbeat, terrorised and victimised” them on communal lines and asked both the Congress and the Akalis to “put their energy to better use” by asking Modi to withdraw the case against them in the Supreme Court.

Mincing no words, the farmers said they had not engaged the services of Advocate-General Ashok Aggarwal and no lawyer could be thrust upon them. The farmers said Aggarwal did meet them in New Delhi, but they had not “appointed” him.

“We want to clarify that we have not appointed Aggarwal as our lawyer. It is our fundamental right to appoint a lawyer of our choice and no lawyer can be thrust upon us by any political party in the garb of giving us legal aid,” the farmers said in a statement.

“Our lawyer in this case is Barrister-at-law Himmat Singh Shergill and we have faith in his capabilities and integrity,” they said.

Accusing Modi of “terrorising, browbeating, intimidating and victimising the minorities in Gujarat,” the Punjabi farmers settled in Gujarat have already contended before the apex court that the prevailing law only prohibits non-agriculturists from buying land in that state.

In a statement filed before the Supreme Court, they have claimed that the Agricultural Land (Vidharba Region and Kutch Area) Act, 1958, “nowhere says that agriculturists from other states cannot buy land in Gujarat.”

Their counsel, seeking the dismissal of the Gujarat Government’s appeal with costs, has said that “gross injustice has been done to the respondents as they are, prima facie, not hit by Section 89 Act, which specifically barred only non-agriculturists from buying Land in Gujarat.”

Farmers from Punjab as well as Haryana started buying land in the Kutch area of Gujarat after the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war on the invitation of then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri who wanted the area to be “well-inhabited”.

Source: The Tribune

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