Wrong to treat protesting farmers as 'enemies': SAD chief to Centre

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Amritsar, Nov 8 (PTI) Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal on Sunday slammed the Centre over the suspension of freight trains in Punjab, saying it is wrong to treat farmers protesting against the central agriculture laws as “enemies”.

The Railways on Saturday declined to resume goods trains in Punjab, saying it will either operate both freight and passenger trains or none.

The train services in Punjab are suspended since September 24, when farmers started their “rail roko” agitation against the central laws.

Goods trains had resumed briefly after farmer unions on October 21 announced exempting them from their 'rail roko' stir but the Railways suspended them again, saying farmers are still blocking the tracks.

Badal condemned the Centre for not resuming freight trains despite farmers “clearing” all rail tracks.

It is wrong to treat farmers agitating against the central agri-marketing acts as “enemies”, he told reporters here.

Badal said the Centre should not make the train services a “prestige” issue. “Farmers held a 'rail roko' agitation to press for the repeal of the laws. They have vacated the rail tracks for more than a week. However, the central government is not restarting trains on one flimsy excuse or the other. Such conduct is not advisable in a democracy,” he said.

Badal criticised Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh for doing “nothing” to resolve the crisis, except holding an hour long-protest in Delhi “solely for the benefit of the cameras”.

He said the CM should tell Punjabis why he failed to meet either the railway minister or seek time from the prime minister to pressure the Union government for the resumption of freight trains.

On future alliances of the party after parting ways with the BJP, the SAD chief said they are strengthening the party in all 117 constituencies in the state.

On the occasion, former Tarn Taran BJP president R P S Maini joined the Shiromani Akali Dal.

Maini, an advocate by profession, had joined the BJP in 2002. He had remained its Tarn Taran district president from 2009 to 2014 and the party spokesperson for the state unit till 2017.

Maini said he resigned from the BJP in protest against the party's refusal to repeal the recently enacted farm laws and its “discriminatory” attitude towards Punjabi language in Jammu and Kashmir.

Badal welcomed Maini to the SAD fold. PTI JMS CHS RDK RDK