Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday lashed out at the centre, accusing it of trying to intimidate commission agents known as Arhityas supporting the farmers who are protesting against its new agricultural laws.
Captain Singh said the income tax raids against some Punjab Arhtiyas was an obvious pressure tactic to curb their democratic right and freedom said these oppressive actions will backfire against the ruling BJP. A total of 14 Arhtiyas across Punjab have received notices from the IT department, his office said in statement.
The Chief Minister said it was evident that having failed to persuade, mislead and divide the farmers into ending their prolonged protest against the farm laws, the central government was now trying to weaken their struggle by targeting the Arhtiyas, who have been actively supporting the agitation since Day 1.
The tax raids were conducted at the premises of several prominent Arthityas of Punjab within a span of just four days of issuing notices, without waiting for responses to the notices, Captain Singh said, dubbing it a clear debasement of the due process of law.
“What is this if not a clear case of vendetta politics by the centre, which is hell-bent on demolishing the farmers’ protest by hook or by crook?” asked the Chief Minister.
Even the Supreme Court had upheld the people’s right to protest peacefully, the Chief Minister said the central government’s actions amounted to gross violation of the top court’s directions and the spirit of the constitution, which granted every citizen the right to raise his voice.
The Chief Minister said it was “unfortunate” that instead of hearing the voice of the farmers, who have been battling cold and the pandemic for more than three weeks now with nearly two dozen losing their lives during the protest, the central government was resorting to all kinds of cheap manoeuvres to break their will.
Farmers, mostly from Punjab, have been camped on the borders of New Delhi since last month, demanding the roll back the reforms intended to bring investment in the antiquated farm sector but which the farmers say will leave them at the mercy of big corporations.
The government, which denies the charge, has held at least five rounds of formal talks with the farmer unions to break the deadlock but the protesters remain firm in their demand for a complete rollback of the laws.