“Today I feel so poor that I do not have much else to sacrifice to express solidarity with the farmers’ cause.”
NEW DELHI — Former Chief Minister of Punjab and Akali Dal patron Parkash Singh Badal on Thursday wrote a letter to the President of India announcing that he was returning his Padma Vibhushan award in protest over the government’s approach to the ongoing farmers’ agitation in India.
Badal said he was giving up one of the highest civilian awards in protest against the betrayal of farmers by the Government of India.
He said that his step expressed his anger against the “shocking indifference and contempt with which the Government was treating the peaceful and democratic agitation against the new Farm Acts.”
Badal’s act of returning the coveted award is a major development amid the week-old massive protests by farmers on highways outside National Capital against the new farm laws described by farmers as “black laws” which grant corporations greater power in the market.
The patron of the Shiromani Akali Dal was honoured with Padma Vibhushan in 2015, a year after Prime Minister Narendra Modi assumed power.
Badal had initially supported the Modi government move but later when farmers took to the streets in protest, his party broke away from the National Democratic Alliance and came out in support of the farmers.
“I was shocked when the government went back on its word,” Badal said, speaking of the betrayal on assurances given by the government that apprehension of farmers on Bills would be addressed.
He said the government had become “heartless” and “ungrateful towards the farmers” who have pulled the country “out of starvation” in the past.
“The three Acts fell as bolts from the blue on the already beleaguered peasantry of the country,” Badal said in the letter.
On the government’s “indifference” toward the demands of the protesting farmers, Badal said: “Tragically, no such sensitivity towards the pain and anger of farmers is visible here”.
In his letter of protest, Badal also recalled his struggle for greater autonomy for states like Punjab and how he ended up in jails.
He said when he was honoured with the Padma Vibhushan, it was “acknowledgement of my commitment to the people in which farmers feature predominantly”.
“Today I feel so poor that I do not have much else to sacrifice to express solidarity with the farmers’ cause,”Badal wrote in the letter, appealing to the President to use his good offices to get the government to listen to the demands of the farmers.