In the latest development over the ongoing anti-farm law protests, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) patriarch and former 5-term Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on Thursday returned the Padma Vibhushan, the country’s second-highest civilian award, which was conferred upon him in 2015.
In a statement, Badal described the laws as “the betrayal of farmers” by the government of India. In September, the month these laws were passed, then central minister and Badal’s daughter-in-law, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who was the only SAD representative in the central government, had resigned from office in protest against the legislations. Days later, the SAD, too, formally announced it was no longer a part of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
The SAD was the BJP’s oldest ally, with the two parties’ ties being more than two decades old.
In recent days, a number of sportspersons from Punjab, too, have threatened to return their awards if the farmers’ demands were not met. Though the farmers have been protesting against the laws since September, including blocking railway tracks in Punjab, last week they started marching towards the national capital and have been camping on its outskirts for eight days now. They have threatened to block Delhi “from all sides” if the laws are not repealed.
Three rounds of talks have taken place between the farmers’ unions and the government thus far, including the latest one on Tuesday. Fourth round of talks are scheduled to take place on Thursday.