Punjab: Congress MLAs disrupt governor's speech, demand reference to farmers' protests

Legislators also sought registration of FIRs for injuries to protestors from Punjab during clashes with Haryana security personnel

Farmers staged a 'Black Day' protest at the Punjab-Haryana border on 23 February (photo: PTI)
Farmers staged a 'Black Day' protest at the Punjab-Haryana border on 23 February (photo: PTI)


Punjab governor Banwarilal Purohit's address to the state Assembly on the opening day of the Budget session on Friday was disrupted by Opposition Congress MLAs, who raised the issues of protesting farmers and resorted to sloganeering.

Amid the uproar, Purohit cut short his address, reading out a few lines and telling the House that the rest of it be deemed as read. State finance minister Harpal Singh Cheema later condemned Congress MLAs for "disrupting the speech" and accused them of disrespecting the House.

As soon as the governor began his address, Punjab Congress chief Amrinder Singh Raja Warring raised the farmers' issue and said homage should be paid to Shubhkaran Singh, who was allegedly killed during clashes between the protesting farmers and Haryana security personnel. "It will be good if the governor pays homage to the deceased young farmer," Warring said.

Leader of Opposition Partap Singh Bajwa said Haryana has sealed its borders with Punjab. "You have not been able to protect your farmers," he said, drawing the Punjab governor's attention to the matter.

As the Congress members insisted that farmers' issues be discussed first, the governor said, "I will request the leader of the Opposition that you have ample time to discuss these things. As per the agenda and custom, I am supposed to deliver my speech. After my speech, you can raise any issue."

There might be so many serious questions. I agree. But this is the time to deliver my speech. Why are you obstructing? This is not fair. I request you, this House is for debate, you will get ample time," Purohit said.

The Assembly speaker also requested the Congress MLAs to let the governor complete his address. However, the MLAs kept raising slogans against the Centre, the AAP dispensation in Punjab and the Haryana government on the farmers' issue. They also sought the registration of an FIR against Haryana home minister Anil Vij for alleged atrocities against the protesting farmers.

At this, the governor said, "In this situation, it is difficult for me to deliver the speech. As per the rules, I am reading out the first line and the last paragraph. This speech may be treated as read."

While condemning the Haryana Police action against protesting farmers, the Congress MLAs also sought the registration of FIRs for injuries to farmers during clashes with the Haryana security personnel.

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (non-political) and the Kisan Mazdoor Morcha (KMM) are spearheading a farmers' 'Delhi Chalo' march to press the government to accept their demands, including a legal guarantee of MSP for crops and a farm loan waiver.

Farmer Shubhkaran (21) was killed and 12 police personnel injured in clashes at Khanauri on the Punjab-Haryana border on 21 February. The incident took place when some protesting farmers were trying to head towards barricades. His last rites were performed in his village in Punjab's Bathinda district on Thursday.

Speaking to reporters outside the House, Bajwa claimed it was the first time in 75 years that a governor had to leave his address midway. "We urged him and told him that he was the Constitutional head... and should not read out a bundle of lies," he said. Bajwa also said Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann should resign on moral grounds as he could not protect Punjab's territory.

Dubbing the Congress MLAs' behaviour in the House as "drama", Cheema said they did not want to hear about the achievements of the Bhagwant Mann government in the state. "To gain cheap publicity, they boycotted the address," the state minister claimed.

The Congress obstructed the governor's address by demanding that Shubhkaran Singh be given tributes first, Cheema said, adding: "The first session of a year starts with the governor's address. It is the tradition. It is written in the rule book. But today, they (Congress) tried to stop it and obstruct it."

The minister asserted that the Mann government has always stood by farmers and cited the registration of an FIR in the death of Shubhkaran Singh, saying the matter will be investigated.

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