The farmer negotiators

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |

Updated: December 3, 2020 11:52:52 am

Farmer leaders after their meeting with Union ministers in the national capital on Tuesday. (Express photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

From an Army veteran and a former medical practitioner to a former footballer and dyed-in-the-wool Communists, meet the 35 who are sitting across the table in the meeting with the government today.

Surjeet Singh Phool (75)
Bharatiya Kisan Union, or BKU (Krantikari)

Political link: none

One of the most influential leaders of the ongoing protests, Phool was booked under UAPA by Punjab government in 2009 when he was accused of being linked to Maoists and placed under “intensive interrogation” in jail in Amritsar. Farmers’ unions had got together in protest to demand his release. On government’s request to farmers to shift protest location, Phool had equated Burari with an open jail.

Hannan Mollah (74), West Bengal
All India Kisan Sabha

Political link: CPM

He joined CPM at the age of 16 and has since risen through the ranks to become a Politburo member.

Bogh Singh Mansa (68)

Political link: none

Singh, now president of the union, has been working on issues related to farmers for the last 42 years and got involved in activism in his student days as a coordinating member of the Punjab Students’ Union.

Joginder Singh (75)
BKU (Ugrahan); one of the largest outfits in protest

Political link: none

Singh left the Army to attend to his family’s farm and formed BKU (Ugrahan) in 2002. He is among few leaders with whom Home Minister Amit Shah spoke with to request the agitation to be shifted to Burari.

Dr Darshan Pal (70)
Krantikari Kisan Union; active in Malwa region

Political link: none

After premature retirement from Punjab Civil Medical Service, Pal took to agriculture — his family owned 15 acres of land. He started participating in farmers’ programmes in 2007 and joined BKU. In 2016, when Krantikari Kisan Union was formed, he became its member and was appointed president during the pandemic.

Kulwant Singh Sandhu (65)
Jamhuri Kisan Sabha.

Political link: Central Committee, Revolutionary Marxist Party of India

Sandhu began as a student activist with CPM’s student wing, SFI, and fought the separatist movement in Punjab. He was elected sarpanch of Jalandhar’s Rurka Kalan village given his position against militancy and was once shot in his leg. He left CPM in 2001.

Buta Singh Burj Gill (66)
BKU (Ekta-Dakonda)

Political link: None

He has been working among farmers since 1984 and was among leaders who gheraoed Punjab Raj Bhawan for several days in 1984. He was earlier part of BKU (Ekta-Sidhupur) faction, which suffered a split in 2006, and became part of the group which was later renamed BKU (Ekta-Dakonda).

Nirbhay Singh Dudhike (70)
Kirti Kisan Union

Political link: CPI(ML) New Democracy

Dudhike came to political forefront during an agitation against killing of two students in police firing in Moga in 1972. He was associated with Tarimala Nagi Reddy’s Unity Centre of Communist Revolutionaries of India-Marxist Leninist (UCCRI-ML) and founded the Tillers Union. He was jailed for 19 months during the Emergency and joined CPI(ML) New Democracy in the late 1980s.

Baldev Singh Nihalgarh (64)
Kul Hind Kisan Sabha

Political link: State executive member, CPI

He began with CPI’s youth wing, AIYF, and later became one of the frontline farmer leaders of Punjab. KHKS is affiliated to CPI’s All India Kisan Sabha, and Nihalgarm comes from a family of Communists.

Ruldu Singh Mansa (68),
Punjab Kisan Union; influential in Malwa

Political link: CPI(ML) Liberation

Rising through farmer movements, Mansa is founder-leader and president of All India Kisan Mahasabha, which is affiliated to CPI(ML) Liberation. He was expelled from BKU (Ekta-Sidhupur) some 15 years ago due to his association with the CPI(ML) Liberation.

Major Singh Punnawal (60)
All India Kisan Sabha

Political link: CPM

His family owns farms in Punnawal. Married to “daughter of a comrade”, Punnawal said it was decided at his wedding that he will work for the party while his wife, a teacher, can work for family income. Punnawal has been with Left outfits for nearly five decades now since he joined SFI at a college in Sangrur in 1973.

Inderjeet Singh Kot Budha (50)
Kisan Sangharsh Committee (Punjab – Kot Buddha); active in Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Jalandhar, Firozepur, etc

Political Affiliation: None

He has a seven-acre farm in Kot Buddha village in Tarn Taran. He was unable to attend the meeting due to ailing health and sent a representative. He was made the head of the outfit in 2018. “We are with no party; we are farmers,” he says.

Gurbaksh Singh Barnala (67)
Jai Kisaan Andolan

Political Affiliation: None

Barnala said he is a small farmer owning 2.5 acres in Barnala’s Kattu village. He is a founding member of his outfit, which was established in 2015. He did not attend the meeting due to ill-health.

Satnam Singh Pannu (65)
Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee; active in 10 districts in Majha, Doaba and Malwa regions

Coming from Tarn Taran’s Piddi village, Pannu has been active in movements since his college days. His outfit is considered as having taken the strongest position against the farm laws since the start. His union continued its dharna on the tracks at Jandiala Guru near Amritsar even after others agreed to call off the protest last week. His outfit was formed in 2000 when the then SAD-BJP government was not procuring paddy from mandis and it was due to their agitation that the crop was finally lifted.

Kanwalpreet Singh Pannu (55)
Kisan Sangharsh Committee (Punjab)

Political link: none

His outfit was established in 2000 and has been part of several agitations, including the one against land acquisition laws in 2015. In April, his outfit held a protest with distancing norms during the lockdown, demanding that wheat crop be lifted, and the needy be provided free healthcare and ration.

Harjinder Singh Tanda (57)
Azaad Kisan Sangharsh Committee (Punjab); active in four districts

Political link: none

Tanda has a 13-acre farm on which he grows paddy and vegetables, and was sarpanch of his village for 15 years until 2018. He has participated in several protests since 2000, when he became a founding-member of Kisan Sangharsh Committee. He became part of the splinter group of the committee and later founded Azad Kisan Sangharsh Committee.

Jagjeet Singh Dalewal (62)
BKU-Sidhupur; claims to have 1.75 lakh members

Political link: none

Dalewal belongs to a family of farmers and has 17 acres of land. Helped by his son in farming, he says he is losing money by not sowing for the kharif crop but “the loss we will face if the laws are not reversed is much higher than one season’s financial loss”. He has been part of unions for three decades now.

Harmeet Singh (43)
BKU (Qadian); has 70,000 members in the district

Political link: None

His grandfather was a founding member of BKU, and Singh is among the new generation farmer-leaders in the state. He has 20 acres of land, and says he tries to hold the movement alive at the grassroots through regular meetings at the village and district level. He joined the union 15 years ago.

Balbir Singh Rajewal (77)
BKU (Rajewal)

Political link: None

Born in 1943 in Ludhiana in a family of farmers, Rajewal completed his education and joined the farmers’ union in 1971. He has 60 acres of land, runs a school, a college, and an “honesty” shop which has no shopkeeper but only has a box for customers to deposit money for what they buy. He says he has never been affiliated to any political party. Rajewal has been active in the union after his son left his job as a commercial pilot in 1992 to take over farming from him.

Satnam Singh Sahni (48)
BKU (Daoba); active in Daoba with mainly sugarcane farmers as members

Political link: none

Among the youngest farmer leaders, Sahni has around 30 acres of land and shot to fame among farmers’ unions when he mobilised farmers against low procurement rate of sugarcane five years ago, forcing the state government to increase prices. A postgraduate from Khalsa College, he was a footballer in Panjab University.

Balvinder Singh Aulakh (42)
Majha Kisan Committee; active in Majha region

Political link: none

Aulakh has led agitations related to issues faced by sugarcane farmers for the last six years. A sarpanch, Aulakh set up the committee in 2014 and has also been handling issues related to mandis in his area.

Baldev Singh Sirsa (72)
Lok Bhalai Insaaf Welfare Society

Political link: none

From Amritsar, Sirsa is a well-known face on local TV channels and is known for his many litigation related to farmers’ issues and Sikh religious institutes in High Court. He has also worked in Haryana as a social activist. Sirsa’s father was known to be close to Chaudhry Devi Lal and he is considered close to OP Chautala.

Satnam Singh Behru (81)
Indian Farmers Association

Political link: none

Behru has been working on agrarian issues for nearly four decades, and is well-known for his petition in Supreme Court in 2011 against the Manmohan Singh government for not implementing the Swaminathan committee report. His outfit backed BJP in the 2014 elections but is now at odds with the Narendra Modi government for refusing to implement the Swaminathan committee’s recommendations and “betraying the farmers”.

Buta Singh Shadipur (59)
Bhartiya Kisan Manch

Political link: Former SAD member

His father was a member of SAD and Shadipur worked on issues related to farmers on behalf of the party for more than 30 years. He left the party in 2016 to launch the Bhartiya Kisan Manch in 2016, and played a key role in bringing together different outfits in the current agitation.

Jungbeer Singh Tanda (45)
Doaba Kisan Samiti

Political link: none

From Hoshiarpur district, Tunda has worked for farmers on issues related to sugarcane cultivation. His outfit said they are determined to keep the agitation apolitical.

Mukesh Chandra (65)
Doaba Kisan Sangharsh Committee; influential in areas around Jalandhar

Political link: none

Vice president of his outfit, Chandra led protests in Jalandhar between August and October 2016 to demand notification of the 0238 variety of sugarcane to bring its price to Rs 370 per quintal. He was part of the groups which negotiated with Punjab CM Amarinder Singh, and eventually agreed to lift the rail blockade.

Sukhpal Singh Daffar (61)
Ganna Sangharsh Committee; active in Hoshiarpur

Political link: none

Daffar is president of the committee, which mainly represents sugarcane farmers in Dasuya. The outfit led an agitation two years ago to demand sugar mills to clear dues and increase prices, blocking Jammu-Jalandhar highway and railway tracks.

Harpal Singh (60)
Azad Kisan Committee Doaba; operating primarily in Hoshiarpur

Political link: none

Singh has led the outfit during road blockades in Hoshiarpur in September

Baldev Singh Miyapur (69)
BKU (Mann); headquartered in Haryana

Political link: traditionally close to the Congress

Miyapur is Punjab president of the outfit and has been a longstanding part of farmer agitations across north India, including raising the demand for freedom to grow Bt cotton in July 2019

Kripal Singh Nathuvala (52)
Kisan Bachao Morcha; Punjab-based farmers’ wing of International Panthic Dal

Political link: none

Nathuvala is president of KBM, which has been vocal about farmers’ issues, including water sharing, and was involved in negotiations with Punjab government over the rail blockade.

Parminder Singh Pal Majra (65)
BKU (Lakhowal),

Political link: Outfit close to the SAD

Majra is Punjab president of the outfit, which filed a petition against the farm laws in Supreme Court, allegedly without permission of other farmer unions. During talks with the Union Agriculture Secretary in October, he had hit out at the Centre for “trying to educate farmers”.

Prem Singh Bhangu
Kul Hind Kisan Federation

Political link: Marxist Communist Party of India (United)

A practicing lawyer in Punjab and Haryana High Court, Bhangu is founder president of KHKF, established in 2014. He has been associated with farmers’ issues since 1992 and is an old-timer in Left politics, starting with SFI in his college days in the 1970s.

Kiranjeet Sekhon
Kul Hind Kisan Federation (Sangrur); active in Sangrur

Political Link: Marxist Communist Party of India (United)

Associated with the Left since his college days and part of Left farmers’ organisations, Sekhon is a practicing lawyer in Sangrur and floated a Sangrur faction of KHKF two years ago.

Gurnam Singh Channuni (60) Haryana
BKU (Chaduni)

Political link: AAP

An affluent farmer and arhtiya from Kurukshetra district, he has been associated with farm issues for several years and is the face of the ongoing agitation in Haryana. His wife contested Lok Sabha polls on an AAP ticket while he contested 2019 Lok Sabha polls as an Independent.

Shiv Kumar Kakka; Madhya Pradesh
Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Mahasangh

Political link: None

A veteran of the JP Movement, Kaka was born in a family of farmers and has been associated with agrarian issues since the 1980s. He was initially associated with RSS and is known to have gone to jail more than 50 times due to his role in agitations.


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