As the farmers' protest continues to intensify across the country, several people involved in the agitation have been slapped with notices from the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
Farmers' leader Baldev Singh Sirsa, Punjabi actor and activist Deep Sindhu, a Punjab-based television journalist Jasbir Singh, and activist Gurpreet Singh, popularly known as Mintu Malwa are among those who received the notices.
The notices by NIA have been sent in connection with an FIR filed against a banned organisation called 'Sikhs for Justice'.
This comes even as the union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar said that the government will continue to engage with protesting farmers and resolve the deadlock, The Wire reported.
Baldev Singh Sirsa, president of Lok Bhalai Insaf Welfare Society, one of the unions engaged in talks with the government, was asked to appear at NIA headquarters in Delhi on January 17. "First, the government tried to derail the farmers' agitation through the Supreme Court, now it is using the NIA," Sirsa said.
'Sikhs for Justice' is a US-based Khalistani group that backs the secession of Punjab from the union of India. The group was established in 2007 by Gurpatwant Singh Pannun. The outfit was banned under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act(UAPA) in 2019 after it demanded a referendum in 2020 for the self-determination of Sikhs.
NIA has alleged that 'Sikhs for Justice' planned to create an "atmosphere of fear and lawlessness to cause disaffection among people and incited them to rise in rebellion against the government."
According to the NIA's FIR, large funds are being collected for propaganda against the government, including demonstrations outside Indian missions overseas, including the USA, UK, Canada and Germany. The FIR has also claimed that these campaigns are being spearheaded by designated terrorists.
Founder of the Ludhiana-based organisation 'Humanity's Service' involved in the ongoing protests, Mintu Malwa, also received a notice and has been asked to appear at NIA headquarters on January 19. Malwa claimed that the notice has been sent to clamp down on the protests against the new farm laws.
"We are satisfied that our voice has reached the right place. We told the official who sent us notice that we got this letter because we support the farmers," the activist said.
In the past few days, at least 13 people have been served notices by the NIA. The matter was also raised by the farmers' leaders in their last round of talks with the government on Friday.
"A number of transporters, among others supporting the farm protests, have been sent notices by the NIA. We have raised strong objections with the agriculture minister on the issue and asked why the government is trying to suppress the protests," Abhimanyu Kohar, who is a national coordinator of Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh said.
The agriculture minister, however, said that it was a different issue as the NIA falls under a different ministry.