Hundreds of protesters broke loose from a planned tractor rally by farmers on the city outskirts and stormed Red Fort on January 26, with others breaching barricades and clashing with police in other parts of the capital.
Punjabi actor-activist Deep Sidhu was seen handing over a 'kesri' flag to a man to hoist it on the ramparts of the Red Ford alongside the tricolor inviting criticism for the farmer’s protest against the controversial agricultural reform laws underway at several border points of Delhi for more than two months now.
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Farmers’ unions, who have disassociated themselves from the faction that stormed the Red Fort, accused Sidhu, and politicians, of leading the youths towards the monument, an act that, they said, was not in the route of scheduled tractor parade.
"Deep Sidhu is not a Sikh, he is a worker of the BJP. There is a picture of him with the PM. This is a movement of farmers and will remain so. Some people will have to leave this place immediately- those who broke barricading will never be a part of the movement," Rakesh Tikait, national spokesperson of Bhartiya Kisan Union told news agency ANI.
Born in 1984 in Punjab's Muktsar district, Sidhu studied law and started practice for some time till he won the Kingfisher Model Hunt award and eventually ended up as an actor in Punjabi movies. His first movie Ramta Jogi was released in 2015. But he gained prominence in 2018 when the movie Jora Das Nimbria, with Sidhu in the lead role of a gangster, hit theaters. A sequel was released in March 2020 when Coronavirus-induced lockdown was imposed across the country.
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Sidhu, 36, was among many activists and artists who joined the farmers’ protest at Shambhu border between Punjab and Haryana since September 25. In November, a video in which he was heard trying to convince Haryana police at Sonepat about the importance of farmers’ protest and why they should be allowed to march to Delhi, was shared extensively. The video, of him, speaking in English, was shared by filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri who mocked the actor for speaking in English and dubbing him as a “poor landless farmer”.
Popularity apart, Sidhu faced opposition from farmers’ unions who called him’ BJP-RSS agent’. In December, he was barred by farmer organisation from speaking on stage over ‘diverting’ attention.
Gaurav Pandhi, national coordinator of the Congress party's digital communications and social media was among many who pointed out his BJP links
Sidhu's alleged association with the BJP comes from the fact that he was part of the team hired by BJP MP Sunny Deol during his Gurdaspur election campaign in 2019. His pictures with Prime Minister Narendra Modi have also appeared. Deol, however, has distanced himself from Sidhu.
Despite being shunned by farmers' unions, Sidhu has been reportedly attempting to take a leadership role in the protest for quite some time now. He appeared on the protest site at the Singhu border a day before the tractor march of January 26. He took over the main stage and, along with gangster-turned-social activist Lakha Sidhana, announced they would hold the march inside Delhi, not in accordance with the routes mutually agreed upon by farmers’ unions and Delhi police.
While Sidhu was at Red Fort during the protests on January 26, Sidhana’s presence could not be confirmed. In a video released on social media after the Red Fort incident, Sidhu said it was the outcome of the agitation that has been going on for several months. He said the Nishan Sahib and Kisan Union flags were hoisted in a “flow of emotions”.
He has admitted that he was behind hoisting the Nishan Sahib flat atop the monument.
“I had warned that our leaders had taken a decision which is against the youth’s sentiments. How can Deep Sidhu instigate such a huge crowd? You will not find a single video of me leading anyone to Red Fort. Everyone was swayed by the moment,” Sidhu said in the video.
Sidhu and his brother, Mandeep Singh, were among those summoned by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) recently in connection with a case filed against the Sikhs For Justice.