Laabh Singh, a slouching, frail, old man, believed to be in his 80s, has been frequenting the protests against new farm laws in the city. Dressed in the traditional blue “baana”, with kirpans in his hands, he identifies himself as a Nihang, and has sworn to peacefully sit at one of the dividers facing Matka Chowk till the farmers’ demands are met. However, today, Laabh Singh had to brave not just the scorching summer heat, but also alleged harassment by cops.
“I have been sitting here since March 6. I come here at 5 am everyday. I have sworn that I will not budge an inch till the farmers’ demands are met. However, this afternoon, the police came and harrassed me no end,” Singh begins to tell his story as videos of him and other protesters at the chowk do the rounds on Instagram.
He continues, “Tomorrow, as part of Basakhi celebrations, I have got some ration, just wheat, sugar and ghee, for prasad. I’ll do the ardaas here, offer my prayers for the farmers and distribute the prasad. However, the police asked me to remove my bag of ration and even tore the ‘chaddar’ (bedsheet) I sat on. What kind of behaviour is this?”
Satnam Singh Tanda of the Naujawan Kisan Ekta, who rushed to the chowk on getting to know of Laabh’s ordeal, shared, “This is not the first time the police have come here to harass this old man, who can barely speak. His kirpans were taken by the police earlier. This is plain humiliation. Baba ji cannot even walk properly. He is just peacefully protesting here. Are the police trying to provoke a reaction?”
Rajwinder Gill, who also reached the spot, said, “When I saw the police taking away Baba ji’s umbrella, I could not believe it. When I confronted them, they said they had orders to remove him from the chowk. When I asked them to show the orders, they didn’t have an answer. They just left when more and more protesters started gathering to support Baba ji.”
The Sector 17 SHO refused to comment or reply to messages sent by this correspondent. DSP (Central) Krishan Kumar said he was on leave. DSP Rashmi Yadav, who is substituting for Kumar, said, “Talk to the SP (City).”
SP (City) Ketan Bansal said, “I wasn’t at the spot, but we can’t allow weapons at the chowk.”