Farmers who blocked the road in Punjab leading to a hold-up of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s convoy yesterday and causing a major security scare, say they had no idea that he would be passing that way. Though informed by the police after they started their roadblock, they said they did not believe them. PM Modi, they said, should have just “sent someone and asked us to move”.
“We thought the police were trying to remove us from the road. There is a helipad built for the PM that side so why would he come by the road? The police were trying to trick us, we thought,” said Baldev Zira, one of the protesters, standing on the Ground Zero on the Moga-Ferozepur highway.
Yesterday, while on way to address a political rally in Ferozepur, PM Modi was stuck on a flyover in Punjab’s Bathinda for around 20 minutes. Then security lapse has caused a major political conflagration between the BJP and the state’s ruling Congress and the matter reached the Supreme Court today. The Punjab government has ordered an inquiry into it.
Led by a faction the Bharatiya Kisan Union, the farmers say they were initially on way to the Ferozepur Deputy Commissioner’s office to hold a protest. But they were stopped by the police on account of the PM’s rally.
The farmers then blocked the road, stopping the cars of BJP leaders and buses carrying party supporters.
“We had no idea at the time that the PM will be coming this way. When the police told us, around 20 minutes after we sat down on the road, we did not believe them,” said Mr Zira, who is also a member of the BKU Krantikari farmers’ union.
He added that they did not even know that the Prime Minister had come, was just several hundred meters away and had to turn back after finding the road blocked.
“When we were on our way back, around 3.30 pm, then some people told us,” he said. “It is possible that even the police had no advance information, or they would not have allowed us here. They did not allow us to protest anywhere near the rally ground,” he added.
Asked about the Prime Minister’s cavalcade being stuck on the flyover, Mr Zira said PM Modi “could have just sent someone and asked us to move”.
Asked about the safety concerns therein for the Prime Minister, he said that was not possible.
“This not that kind of atmosphere. This is a peaceful place. Not like some other state. The Prime Minister drove 120-130 km till this spot,” he said.
The BJP has alleged that the connivance of the state’s Congress government, the state police and farmers in what they called endangering the Prime Minister and placing him in “harm’s way”.
According to news agency ANI, even PM Modi told the Bhatinda airport officials: “Apne CM ko thanks kehna, ki mein Bhatinda airport tak zinda laut paaya (Thank your Chief Minister that I could make it alive to the Bathinda airport).”
President Ram Nath Kovind met PM Modi today and received a first-hand account of the incident and expressed concern over the security lapse.
Tomorrow, the Supreme Court will hear a petition that contends that the Punjab Chief Secretary and the Director-General of Police must be held responsible for the security breach and be suspended.