Denying that he had instigated the crowd and claiming that the Nishan Sahib flag was hoisted in a "flow of emotions", Sidhu said: "I had warned that our leaders had taken a decision which is against the youth's sentiments."

On January 20, exactly a week before the Republic Day violence, when Delhi Police and farm unions were in talks over security rules for the tractor parade, Punjabi film actor Deep Sidhu, who has been named in the Delhi Police FIR on the Red Fort incident, went on Facebook to livestream several tractors en route from Punjab to Delhi and said: “Picture toh abhi baki hai mere dost”.

And on January 23, he shared a web channel interview, in Punjabi, in which he said: “We can’t plan what will happen on January 26. It would be out of our calculations. It would be unpredictable. It is up to the Almighty, what happens on January 26. We humans cannot say anything.”

The first eight-minute-long Facebook post had over 2 lakh views and is one of a series showing how Sidhu, given the cold shoulder by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) since the Singhu protests started on November 26, reached out to farmers over the unions’ heads and kept raising the pitch.

In fact, one theme he kept underlining in these messages was the “need for unity” among protesters, a not-so veiled snub to the farm leaders. It was point he made on Tuesday, too, after the Red Fort incident.

Denying that he had instigated the crowd and claiming that the Nishan Sahib flag was hoisted in a “flow of emotions”, Sidhu said: “I had warned that our leaders had taken a decision which is against the youth’s sentiments.”

Sidhu is now in the cross-hairs of the Opposition, who alleged Wednesday that he was close to the BJP and part of the “conspiracy” to discredit the protests. Referring to Union Minister Prakash Javadekar’s remarks that action should be taken against all of those who instigated the crowd, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor tweeted: “Agree with Prakash Javadekar on this. So to catch the culprits, we can start with this name: Deep Sidhu, campaigner-in-chief for BJP MP Sunny Deol, who admits his role to the media… Judging by these photos, his associates won’t be hard to find either.” Tharoor posted photographs of Sidhu and Deol with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sidhu with Home Minister Amit Shah. He also posted a photograph of Sidhu at Red Fort on Tuesday.

On January 19, Sidhu defended BKU (Haryana) president Gurnam Singh Chaduni and himself against the allegations of farmer unions and highlighted the trust deficit between farmer unions and himself. Chaduni, a member of SKM, was suspected by farmer unions of holding talks with political parties.

“We should have faith in our man even if he is sitting with the enemy…It happened with me also. I am tagged as a BJP-RSS man for campaigning for Sunny Deol for just 20 days. Now they are doubting Gurnam Singh Chaduni for just attending a meeting. There may be a difference of opinion, but it shouldn’t mean that you tag anyone as the enemy’s man. It is not the right approach,” he said in an interview to a web channel which he shared on Facebook.

On January 21, Sidhu interviewed an unnamed man who he introduced as a “hero”. The man, who identified himself as a farmer protester at the Singhu border, claimed that some farm union leaders wanted to move to the Burari ground on November 26 itself but he had defied these orders and asked the crowd to remain at Singhu. “It was the decisive moment. If we had shifted ground, the Modi government would have the upper hand,” he said. That nine-minute-long interview was watched by 2.25 lakh people.

On January 22, Sidhu issued a message calling for unity, linking that to the tractor parade. In a Facebook Live watched by 1.34 lakh users, he said: “I want to make a request to farmer unions that we all should become one by forgetting our differences. January 26 is a test for us. We should be so united that even air can’t pass through us. It is time for us to take inspiration from the Guru Granth Sahib and move forward with unity.”

On January 24, he said he “appreciated…farmer leaders for the firm stand they took on farm laws.” That night, he shared an unconfirmed map of the route plan of the parade, along with an excerpt from a poem to describe how Sikhs lost despite putting up a great fight against the British just because there was no Maharaja Ranjit Singh to lead them.

On January 25, he referred to the violence after the death of George Floyd in the US, while talking about the non-violence being practised by farmer protesters. “Shops were looted in the US and there was largescale violence. But here, our civilisation reacts with calm and no innocent has been hurt,” he said. He also referred to Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, saying that no leader stands for his words and his people as Bhindranwale did in the recent history of Punjab.

In another post, he shared a Punjabi song dedicated to Sikhs killed in 1984 and the aftermath of the riots.

After some protesters, mostly youths, took over the stage at Singhu for hours on the night of January 25 – Sidhu was among those who addressed the crowd – he posted another video calling for unity and urging farm union leaders to take decisions that were acceptable to all. “If any of us try to hurt the unity now, we should also be ready to face the consequences. Nobody should be seen as a rival. Nobody should make it an ego issue. Farmer union leaders should take a decision that is acceptable to all,” he said.

His last one-line message on Facebook, posted before the dawn of January 26, was: “It’s absolutely necessary for us to stay together now.”

Meanwhile, the Congress and AAP named Sidhu on Wednesday to allege a “conspiracy” by the Centre. Addressing a press conference, Congress leader Randeep Surjewala said: “A concerted conspiracy aided and abetted by the Modi government took place to malign the entire farmers’ movement… A set of people with a pre-meditated motive of violence…who have nothing to do with the SKM were permitted to enter the premises of Red Fort… climb on to its columns and put a flag there. This is sacrilege, unacceptable and those who did it…Deep Sidhu and gang… they have been seen in the past with the Prime Minister and the Home Minister….”

The AAP alleged that Sidhu and “central agencies” had infiltrated the protests and instigated violence.

– With ENS, New Delhi

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