Protesters defy Section 144, camp outside Mann’s Sangrur residence to press for their demands

Ten farm labourer unions of Punjab — under the aegis of Sanjha Punjab Morcha — defied Section 144 orders and notices issues to them to embark on a 72-hour dharna in front of Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann’s residence in Sangrur’s Dreamland Colony on Monday for a bunch of demands.

BKU Ugrahan, Punjab’s largest farmer union, has lent its support to this dharna .

Scenes of protests outside Dreamland society have been a common sight ever since Mann was sworn-in as the Chief Minister of the state, with a heavy contingent of policemen always present at the spot as part of Mann’s security.

Mukesh Malaud, president of Zamin Prapti Sangrash Committee, one of the ten groups that launched Monday’s protest, said, “The district administration has imposed Section 144 in the city after our protest call. They even sent us notices stating that we had not taken prior permission for our protests and if any law and order problem is created , action will be taken against us, as per law. On Monday, thousands of farm labourers from across the state defied the administration’s notice and come out to join our protests in Sangrur. Many people came in buses and tempos. Some others chose to march on foot to reach Sangrur. None of us were stopped. Our dharna is being staged on the Sangrur-Patiala main highway opposite Dreamland Colony’s gate. We have left a passage for colony residents to enter and exit the colony, and our dharna will continue till September 14.” Apart from Mann, who occasionally visits his Dreamland Colony residence, around 100 other people live there.

Tarsem Peter, president of Pendu Khet Mazdoor Union, said, “We came from Doaba along with our supporters in our vehicles. It seems like the AAP is acting as the B team of the BJP as they are trying to muffle our voice by stopping us from organising peaceful protests for putting forth genuine demands. But we defied their diktats.”

Zora Singh Nasrali, president of Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union said, “Last year, the cotton crop in south west Punjab was damaged due to attack of pink bollworm and white fly. The then Congress government had announced 10% total compensation to farm labourers. Till date no money has received.”

The other demands of the protesters include increase in NREGA daily wages to Rs 700 rupees, and one third of panchayat land meant for agriculture being given to actual Dalit families instead of dummy candidates fielded by landlords, among others.

The farmers and farm labourers will stay put outside Dreamland Colony overnight, protesters said, with cooked food being arranged from nearby villages. A provision of cooking langar at the dharna spot has also been made.

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