S V Singh //
It is 36 days since farmers are camping at all the border points on the highway. More than 40 persons have succumbed to the bone shattering cold ways out in the open in night. Latest round of talks between farmer union representatives and government on Dec 30, though, have been partially successful. Government conceded on 2 minor demands and agreed not to proceed on first, criminal provisions of Stubble Burning Act (contrary to the Supreme Court ruling in this matter) and second on the proposed Electricity Amendment Bill, 2020. Although nothing has so far been given in writing and that aspect cannot be ignored. Government has, however, stubbornly refused to yield on 2 major demands of scrapping the recently passes agricultural laws and price guarantee on MSP. Next round of talks are scheduled to be held on Jan 4, 2021 on these two major demands.
- Singhu Border
Drive about 29 km from ISBT Kashmere Gate on the GT Karnal Road to reach near the village Singhu. It has now become a Kisan Terminus over there. Walk a few yards and you will pass big trenches about 4 feet deep across the road, barbed wire and jumbo sized police barricades and large posse of armed police as if you have arrived at a border with another country. Uncountable tractors, trollies covered with tarpaulin and a sea of humanity with colorful turbans covering entire 6 lane on the most busy GT Road, national highway no 1. One can neither see the other end of what looks like an army cantonment nor can reach in a single attempt. Trollies are not only covered properly, these are transformed innovatively into a lodging apartment with so many amenities inside, one can’t imagine. Another feature that can’t be missed is langars of food, tea, snacks run by the farmers just like communes, very warmly inviting all and sundry without bothering to know any details and feeling happy after serving if anyone agrees to eat. After entry into the ‘cantonment’, one will certainly note intermingling of farmers and the police personnel both relishing tea and steaming pakodas in great camaraderie, a scene never witnessed in agitations. Along with one main meeting ground with giant stage bearing photo of Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh among others, there are 2 other small meeting places. No one is in any fear or hurry, everyone looks relaxed and prepared for a long stay. Continuous shouting of slogans, fiery speeches go on as usually. Looks and profile of farmers suggest that they belong to all categories of rural population, agricultural workers, marginal, small, middle and some rich farmers too in their glittering SUVs. A large number of women are enthusiastically participating in all the activities, more active in langars preparing food. Speeches from non -leaders like poor peasant are particularly appealing as their words are drenched in their sweat and miseries, drowned in debts till neck, not knowing how to come out. Flags of all colors mostly yellowish greens but red communist flags too are in abundance.
This reporter visited the site on December 11 afternoon. A sikh youth from Anantpur District of Punjab, waiving a red flag and shouting Inqalab Zindabad at full throat, wearing a beard but not particularly sikh turban who works as whole timer for All India Kisan Sabha, a farmer organization of CPIM, happily agreed to stop besides a march of tractors going on and talk. How much land do you own? About 1 acre, he replied. Can you make both ends meet out of it? No, that is not possible even for one of us 3 brothers. We all know. That is why we have moved to the town to look for some job. What difference these three agri laws will make in your life when without them also, you cannot sustain your livelihood over such a small piece of land? Don’t you think that marginal peasants like you and agricultural workers should have led their own movement rather than following rich farmers demanding MSP? He gives a confused and blank look and replies after a long pause and deep breath, ‘no one taught us all that, I know no other way, may be you are right’. He parted with warm handshake and hesitant smile.
Fierce raze against Narendra Modi and his government and Adani-Ambani cannot be missed wherever you may go, whomsoever you may talk. ‘We failed to know his reality and voted for him, we have shot on our feet, we have to suffer now but not going to return empty handed that is for sure and let it be noted by Modi’. It is the unfailing essence and feel of all speeches, all talks around hukka, gossips in Punjabi. How to bear with sufferings and hardships in a long drawn protracted battle is to be learnt from these farm warriors. While returning to our warm and cozy home, leaving them there to face chilling night winds, one is overwhelmed with compassion and heartfelt feelings. Victory to these never say die fighters!!
2. Tikri Border
Best wayto reach there is by metro as there is a metro station with the same name on the green line from Kirti Nagar to Bahadurgarh. Protest site is very near to metro station but the police have made the access difficult by deliberately obstructing the passage. May be in, ‘what for are we here’, spirit!! Meeting pandal is at the beginning. Farmers gathering here is less than one fourth of Singhu border but moving is more difficult as the road is narrow and encroached on both sides. Another distinct feature that can’t be missed here is deliberate attempts by all to cement unity between Haryana & Punjab farmers. Banners of ‘Hariyana-Punjab Bhaichara’ were prominently displayed along with banners like ‘Dalal Khaap, Saat Baas Jadiya Khaap’ were also visible. On the date of our visit, Dec 18, a Woman leader from ‘Haryana State Democratic Women Organization’ delivered a speech assuring complete support to farmers fight by women from Haryana. She and all other speakers made it known that they are one. Every speaker from Haryana addressed by shouting ‘Sat Sri Akal to all Punjabi brothers’ and every speaker with Punjab, ‘Ram Ram to all brothers from Haryana’ to cement unity and solidarity. We, then, came to know that this is being done deliberately to counter Haryana government’s sinister agenda to divide Haryanavis & Punjabis. Besides calling the protesting farmers as ‘terrorists, Khalistanis, Maoist supporters, playing into the hands of Pakistan and China and misguided by opposition leaders’ Haryana government shamelessly raked Satlaj Yamuna Canal issue to wedge a divide between farmers from Punjab and Haryana. BJP even held a protest at Gurgaon demanding more water from Punjab under ‘SY Canal Accord’. Farmers were, in fact, replying to the Haryana government that ‘do whatever you can but no one can shake our bond’. This, indeed, was a heart touching marvelous gesture!! Only a moron can say that these farmers are misguided by opposition. No one can dare misguide them. A banner promising support from ‘All India Transporter Welfare Association’ could be seen from quite a distance. Here too the villains remained the same trio as at Singhu border; Modi-Ambani-Adani (MAA)!! All known adjectives in dictionary were being used for this TRIMURTI, by every speaker quite liberally. This also is a new phenomenon courtesy farmer’s intelligence. One tall poor farmer, Chhatar Singh from Mahendergarh District of Haryana expressed exactly the same words as by Mohinder Singh Saini from Anantpur District or Punjab mentioned here above in the first report. Langars of tea, pakodas and food are lined up here as well with very warm hospitality. This reporter cannot forget taste of the tea sans milk made of several herbs using jaggery and the warmth of Smt. Amrit Kaur insisting to take second helping as it will keep the cold away!! This report will be incomplete if the efforts of volunteers from Gargi Prakashan are not appreciated who have put up a book stall displaying small booklets in Hindi and Punjabi and were having great rush. Farmers of India are vociferously reading Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh and Karl Marx since last 36 days at least and this augurs well for this nation. This reporter too picked up some very nice booklets.
3. Shahjahanpur/ Khandora Border
This venue of the ongoing historic farmers movement never witnessed in our country is at the joint where border of Rewari District of Haryana meets border of Alwar district of Rajasthan at 114 km from Delhi on Delhi- Jaipur national highway no 8. Credit for forcing central government to drop the vicious propaganda that this farmers movement is organized by the misguided farmers from Punjab and Haryana only should go to the farmers protesting at this site. Farmers not only from neighboring states of Haryana and Rajasthan are camping here but from as far as Gujrat and Maharashtra are also very much there. The point to be mentioned in this respect is that Haryana government has not only obstructed farmers march on highways, it has also obstructed and forced them in the rural side by using brutal police force. No other state has gone to that extent and that is the reason that Haryana farmers are extremely furious with Khattar government. CM, Dy CM and several Haryana ministers are chased and gheraoed by the farmers at several places. Maharashtra contingent led by Maharashtra Kisan Sabha affiliated to CPIM deserves special mention. Who can forget that marvelous and disciplined march last year by these farmers from Nashik to Mumbai, looking like a flowing river of red flags that won not only their demands from the Maharashtra government but also won hearts of Mumbaikars. A contingent of over 25000 farmers entered Mumbai in the thick of night without disturbing the traffic and peace of the megapolis and people responding with warmth and affection by offering food, snack packets and water pouches. The same winning and disciplined soldiers have reached Shahajahanpur border also called as Khandora border on Dec 29, received enthusiastically by thunderous sloganeering by their comrades form other states. Initially they blocked half the busy NH8 highway but now since Dec 25 entire highway at the border is occupied by protesters. Police repression was witnessed at this site initially but it withered away as the strength began to swell underlying the formula that police repression in a movement is inversely proportional to strength of masses participating. Farmers had planned a grand tractor march from Singhu border to Shahjahanpur border of Dec 31 but that proposal is now dropped as government has conceded to two minor demands of the farmers in a meeting held at Vigyan Bhawan on Dec 30 and next meeting is scheduled on Jan 4, 2021.
4. Ghazipur Border
Eastern front of the farmers battle is about 40 km from Delhi on national highway no 24. Farmers from western part of UP are camping here. The day, this reporter visited the site (Dec 19) there was no obstruction on the highway. Actually, this highway has now been upgraded into an express way and height of that is about 10 meter from the ground at Ghazipur border with no exit or entry point there. Hence farmers, though, huge in number, more than at any other border but less than Singhu border, had occupied the local roads on the ground and police was stopping them from climbing on top of flyover. During this period of agitation, farmers have displayed their commanding genius also. They are marshalling their resources intelligently. Noticing logistic difficulties at this border, they called more contingents not only from villages but also decided on Dec 26 to move one contingent from surplus camp at Singhu border to the deficient camp at this border. They, then, succeeded to push back police force and enter the expressway and did not lose any time before occupying entire expressway, not allowing any traffic whatsoever. The BKU leader Rakesh Tikait has defied apprehensions of some people that he may go the V. M. Singh way but that didn’t happen and he is displaying hereditary fighting spirit and giving no opportunity to government to buy peace without yielding to any of the farmers demands. This eastern front which looked vulnerable due to its awkward geography has now become impenetrable and this has frustrated the state from playing any ‘game’.
5. Palwal Border
About 62 km from Delhi on Delhi Agra old expressway, this site of farmers protest is the weakest link though strength is rising at this site also. Traffic is not stopped and protesters are mostly camping under a flyover on the Kudli-Manesar-Palwal-Ghaziabad-Kundli peripheral expressway.
6. There were some unconfirmed news floating on the social media that government may decide to swoop down on farmers in the night with brute force to disrupt and finish the iconic farmers movement. The growing strength of farmers, rising support and sympathy of the masses at large and spreading contours of the movement nationwide thwarted in case there was any sinister move by the government. Farmers had a massive movement in Patna on Dec 29 where police beat the farmers brutally. Similar movements were also reported from several places in southern states of Tamilnadu, Andhra, Telangana and Kerala. This reality has reflected in the mood of central government negotiators in Dec 30 meeting with farmers. The arrogance and highhandedness of earlier rounds of negotiations gave way to ‘cordial and brotherly’ atmosphere in that meeting. Farmers did uphold their self- respect and brought their own food, didn’t touch government feast. These were government ministers who shared meal brought by farmers. This in no way should be termed as less achievement in the battle of wits.
7. Memorable points of the farmers movement:
- Not a single incident of violence is reported from any site. Even in case when some hooligans were caught red handed spreading venom by shouting pro Pakistan or pro Khalistan slogans to disturb peace, farmer volunteers got furious but did not harm them. They only video graphed the incident and handed the criminals over to the police. Even the media mafia that carries venomous campaign against agitating farmers was treated fairly, only hooted but not attacked.
- There is absolutely no report of sexual misconduct against women. No incident of alcoholism or any drug consumption is reported from any site contrary to such propaganda against Punjab that one keeps hearing.
- Sense of discipline is exemplary. Volunteers are alert but the participants themselves are following rules and maintaining order.
- Not only the langars, medical camps, hair cutting saloons but the farmers are also running Kisan Malls at Singhu and Tikri border distributing free items of daily needs. No disorder or chaos is reported from anywhere.
- Most importantly, this is the first time in its 6 years of rule that the present dispensation at center has come down on ground. They have always treated agitators with humiliating disdain. Farmers have made them behave and have left them red faced. Arrogance and obstinance have evaporated. Government is unable to hide embarrassment.
- Visitors including yours truly, will remember the warmth and hospitality of farmers for their life. Hot pakodas with hot tea, no where tastes as good as at Singhu border. One may go there and confirm.
[Originally published in The Truth: Platform for Radical Voices of The Working Class (Issue 9 / January 2021)]