- The actor-activist was once known to be close to BJP MP Sunny Deol
- Deep Sidhu said anger was natural in a mass movement
- He said the protesters did not go to Delhi to hurt anyone
After a day of clashes during a farmers' tractor protest on Republic Day on Tuesday, the role of a Punjabi actor, Deep Sidhu, has come under scrutiny. The actor-activist, once known to be close to movie star-turned-BJP MP Sunny Deol, was last seen at Red Fort, which became the epicenter of the chaos that descended upon Delhi.
Farmers have accused him of planting the "Nishan Sahib" or Sikh religious flag at the Red Fort, an act that has provoked outrage, especially on social media. Images of protesters armed with sticks occupying the 400-year-old Mughal monument has drawn criticism even from those who backed the farmers' agitation.
In a post on Facebook last evening, Deep Sidhu has defended the act, saying the protesters did not remove the national flag but put up the "Nishan Sahib" as a symbolic protest.
He also claimed that it was a spontaneous act.
"To symbolically register our protest against the new farm legislation, we put up 'Nishan Sahib' and a farmer flag and also raised the slogan of Kisan Mazdoor Ekta," said Mr Sidhu. He asserted that the national flag was not removed from the flagpole at the Red Fort.
Pointing at the "Nishan Sahib" -- a triangular saffron flag bearing Sikh religious symbols - he said it represented the country's "unity in diversity".
Mr Sidhu said such anger was natural in a mass movement "when the genuine rights of people" are ignored. "In today's situation, that anger flared up."
He said the protesters did not go to Delhi to hurt anyone or damage public property. "We held a peaceful protest without destroying anything or causing any damage to the public property...we exercised our democratic right peacefully. If we think one person or a personality could do such a big mobilisation of people, then it will be wrong."
But various farmer leaders have distanced themselves from him and accused him of acting on behalf of the government to try and taint a peaceful protest.
The actor-activist came into the spotlight as an aide of Sunny Deol when he contested from Gurdaspur in Punjab in 2019. The actor has since disassociated himself from Mr Sidhu. He put out a statement in December. Yesterday, Sunny Deol posted another statement: "Today what happened at Red Fort has saddened me. I had earlier too, on December 6, made it clear that neither I nor my family have anything to do with Deep Sidhu."
The Samkyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of 41 farmer unions that is leading the farmer protest, alleged that some "antisocial elements" had infiltrated their otherwise peaceful movement.
Rajesh Tikait of the Bharat Kisan Union said: "Deep Sidhu is not a Sikh, he is a worker of the BJP. 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."
Another leader involved in yesterday's protest, Satnam Singh Pannu of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, said: "Whatever happened at Red Fort is because of Deep Sidhu. Why didn't the police stop him at Red Fort? He is close to the ruling party."