Farmers arrested on way to liquor factory protest site in Punjab’s Mansurwal village


The Punjab Police Sunday arrested several farmers at the T-point of NH-54 near Rataul Rohi village in Ferozepur district, which is about a kilometre from Mansurwal village where a Sanjha Morcha Zira-led dharna seeking the closure of a liquor factory has been going on for nearly 150 days now. The villagers were primarily arrested on their way to the protest site.

The police action came just hours after an FIR was lodged in Ferozepur against more than 100 protesting villagers – 15 named and the rest unidentified. The FIR was lodged after the protesters rejected Punjab Agriculture Minister Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal’s appeal to lift the dharna or shift the protest site.

SSP Ferozepur Kanwardeep Kaur said: “A few persons have been arrested from the national highway, about a kilometre from the main dharna site. A few others mentioned in the FIR were arrested from their houses as well.” The SSP added that the dharna at Mansurwal village was illegal as the high court has asked the government to get the dharna shifted to a location 300m from the present protest site.

Notably, the high court has imposed a fine of Rs 20 crore on the Punjab Government for its failure to get the dharna shifted. The factory owner has claimed that he has suffered a huge loss owing to the closure of the unit since July 24.

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According to reports, many farmers recently started a fresh dharna at the T-point of NH-54 near Rataul Rohi village when the police were on their way to remove the protesters in Mansurwal village. On Sunday morning, the police removed the tent of the protesters near Rataul Rohi village and arrested many protestors.

Meanwhile, Roman Brar, the convenor of SMZ, said: “Our dharna at Mansurwal is going on but the cops are preventing people from reaching the site. A heavy police force has been deployed in many villages of Zira. We are seeking clean water and air, and action is being taken against us rather than the one who is polluting the environment.”

Rajinder Singh Khosa, the president of Bharti Kisan Union (Khosa), said: “Our press secretary Mangal Singh Sandhu has been arrested. The police are raiding the houses of many union leaders… Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann should think before he acts, one shouldn’t forget how the masses rejected the Shiromani Akali Dal after the Bargari incident. The AAP shouldn’t undermine the strength of the common man.”

Bharti Kisan Union (Ugrahan) and Bharti Kisan Union (Rajewal), among others, have extended their support to the SMZ. The organisations condemned the police action. Bharti Kisan Union (Ugrahan) said its members will join the protest in large numbers and union leaders will soon meet to discuss the next course of action.

Saturday’s FIR was lodged on the basis of the complaint of ASI Kulwant Singh. In his complaint, Kulwant Singh stated that he and his team were stopped by people near Rataul Rohi village while they were on their way to shift protesters from Mansurwal village.

Villagers including men and women were allegedly armed with swords, rods, and sticks and obstructed the police by parking tractor-trolleys on the national highway.

The 15 persons named in the FIR are Bachitar Singh, Mukhtiar Singh, Balihar Singh, Jasvir Singh, Gurnek Singh, Manpreet Singh, Shinder Singh, Ram Singh, Ladoo Singh, Mahinder Singh, Jaswinder Singh, Kuldip Singh, Jugraj Singh, Balraj Singh, and Sukhwinder Singh. The majority of villagers booked were from Sodhi Wala village.

The villagers have been booked under several sections of the Indian Penal Code including voluntary obstruction of a public servant, punishment for wrongful restraint, disobedience to orders duly promulgated by a public servant, and unlawful assembly of people, among others.

Notably, an indefinite dharna to shut down the liquor factory started in Mansurwal village on July 24. The factory has been lying closed since then as the protestors refused to let any employee enter the unit. As of now, over 300 employees who work in the unit have been rendered jobless. While the government has proposed to form different committees to study the impact of the purported pollution caused by the factory, the SMZ has stated that it will not lift the dharna till the factory is closed permanently.


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