On Tuesday, the Republic Day tractor rally by farmers protesting against the new farm laws turned violent, after farmers clashed with Delhi Police at various locations, which culminated in the death of a protesting farmer. The tractor rally had allegedly deviated from the planned route on the Outer Ring road of Delhi, and instead reached Red Fort, at the heart of the national capital.
Following the spate of violent clashes, farm union leaders accused Punjabi activist and actor Deep Sidhu of instigating protesters to climb on Red Fort and place a Nishan Sahib flag on one of the empty flag posts. A quick look through his Facebook page shows that Sidhu has been an active part of the protest over the past few months, rallying farmers against the farm laws passed by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led administration.
But long before Sidhu placed himself in a fight against the establishment, he was campaigning for actor-turned-politician Sunny Deol, who was then representing the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections of 2019, and is now a member of parliament for the party.
From Acting To Politics To Activism
Sidhu is a 36-year-old Punjabi actor from the Mukstar district of Punjab, who was earlier a practising lawyer before entering the film industry. He was the legal head of Balaji Telefilms, and has even worked with senior lawyers like Harish Salve, Ram Jethmalani, Mukul Rohatgi, and Arun Jaitely, among others.
He started his acting career with the 2015 Punjabi film Ramta Jogi, produced by Deol family-owned Vijayta Films and directed by Dharmendra Deol's cousin Guddu Dhanoa.
Sidhu has earlier claimed as being close to the Deol family, especially to Dharmendra's sons Bobby and Sunny Deol. In an interview with Punjabi daily The Tribune Sidhu said, "Both Sunny and Bobby are very supportive. Of course, they are always there for me when I need them, always giving the right advice." Sunny Deol, in return, called Sidhu as 'more of a younger brother' in an interview from 2015.
In 2019, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi recruited Sunny Deol to stand for the BJP for the Lok Sabha elections in Punjab's Gurdaspur constituency, Sidhu took part in the campaign, and was seen with Deol many a times during the campaign trail. In image from that time (shown below), showing Sidhu standing with Deol and Modi, went viral on Republic Day, with many on social media claiming that Sidhu was allegedly placed in the protest by the administration to instigate violence.
Following the violence at Red Fort on Republic Day, Deol put out a tweet distancing himself from Sidhu and claimed that him and his family has no connection with Sidhu. "Today, I am very sad to see what happened at Red Fort, I have already made it clear on Twitter, on 6 December, that me or my family have no connection with Deep Sidhu. Jai Hind," Deol wrote.The December 6 tweet Deol spoke out is in reference to a statement he made that day on Twitter, confirming Sidhu's presence in his Lok Sabha campaign and stating that Sidhu has not been with him for a long time.
Accused By Farmers Unions Of Instigating Violence
On Tuesday evening, as the dust settled in Delhi following the chaos during the tractor rally, senior farmer leaders accused Sidhu for inciting violence at Red Fort.
Gurnam Singh Chaduni, the state president of Bharatiya Kisan Union's Haryana unit, said in an video statement, "What he (Sidhu) did today is very condemnable. We had no programme of visiting the Red Fort. He went there as a rebel and misled people. We were not aware that Sidhu is going to the Red Fort."
"We condemn this act of Deep Sidhu in strong words and we think that he was working as a government agent." he added.
Sidhu had earlier posted a video of himself with a large crowd, aiding in the hoisting of the Sikh Nishan Sahib flag at Red Fort while holding a microphone in his hand.
Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav, who was present at the protests, also accused Sidhu of instigating the protestors on multiple occasions. While speaking to Rajdeep Sardesai on India Today, Yadav said,"We had informed the police about this beforehand but no action was taken. He has not been arrested despite his pictures from during the incident. It seems like a conspiracy led the incident at Red Fort."
While Sidhu has constantly attempted to be a part of the farmers protests, he has been shunned by various union leaders at various stages of the protests since November, and accused of being a government mole.
Following the Republic Day chaos, Delhi Police filed 25 FIRs naming 37 farmer union leaders which include Yadav along with social activist Medha Patkar and BKU spokesperson Rakesh Tikait. During a press conference on January 27, Delhi Police made no mention of Deep Sidhu, and failed to provide a specific response to reporters asking whether an FIR has been filed against him.
"Didn't take down any flag, just hoisted the Nishan Saab flag"
Sidhu later put up a video on his Facebook page where he defended his actions from earlier that day, and denied that allegations of instigating violence by saying, "How can one person instigate lakhs of people?"
"We did not take down any flag, we just hoisted the flag of Nishan Saab and Kisan-Majdoor Ekta (farmer-worker unity)," he added.
While is well-established that Sidhu was once close to the BJP-linked Deol family, and was part of the Lok Sabha 2019 campaign for BJP MP Sunny Deol, BOOM is yet to come across evidence linking Sidhu's participation in the farmers protests with the central government or the ruling party.
BOOM reached out to Sidhu on several occasions following the Republic Day tractor rally, but found his cell phone switched off.
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