Former Punjab Chief Minister and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) patriarch Parkash Singh Badal on Thursday returned the Padam Vibhushan award “in protest” against the “betrayal of the farmers by the Government of India” and for the “shocking indifference and contempt” with which the government is treating the ongoing peaceful and democratic agitation of the farmers.
“I am who I am because of the people, especially the common farmer. Today when he has lost more than his honour, I see no point in holding on to the Padma Vibhushan honour,” said the Akali stalwart in his letter to President Ram Nath Kovind.
Badal wrote that betrayal of the farmers by the government like “bolts from the blue on the already beleaguered peasantry of the country” added that “farmer finds himself waging bitter struggles in severe cold just to secure his fundamental right to live.”
In a letter e-mailed to the President today morning, Badal said, “After panthic ideals of peace and communal harmony, farmers have been my second religious passion.”
“Everything I have, everything I take pride in, every moment of glory or every office of public service that has been bestowed on me during my long public career has been pure because of my commitment to these ideals in which farmers have remained at the centre of everything,” he stated further.
Badal said when he was honoured with Padam Vibhushan, he knew it was only in acknowledgement of his commitment to the people in which the farmers featured most prominently.
Badal further listed the reasons for feeling “hurt and betrayed” by the government’s attitude and actions against the farmers.
“When the Government of India had brought the ordnances, assurances were given that the farmers’ apprehensions on these ordinances would be addressed to their satisfaction while bringing the relevant Bills and subsequently the Acts. Trusting these assurances, I even appealed to the farmers to believe the government’s word. But I was shocked when the Government simply went back on its word,” he added.
The former Chief Minister described the period after betrayal as “the most painful and embarrassing moment in my long political career. I just cannot put in words the pain and emotional stress which I have been going through since then. I have truly begun to wonder why has the Government of the country become so heartless, so cynical and so ungrateful towards the farmers.”
He said that he has been “deeply pained also by the communal insinuations being thrown at the peacefully and democratically protesting farmers” and added that farmers of the country “have secular ethos running in their blood and they are the best guarantee for safeguarding the country’s secular, democratic values and character which face serious challenges from some other quarters.”
SAD patriarch reminded the president that he “presides over the destiny of a population 70 per cent of whom are farmers. For over 70 years, these farmers have been serving the country as its “annadata” with the most selfless and self-effacing humility.”
Badal further described “the black laws now implemented by the government” as “the proverbial last nail in the coffin of the country’s annadata.”