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‘Dampened, Not Defeated’: Singhu Protesters After R-Day Violence

What was the mood at the Singhu border in the wake of the Republic Day violence? Here’s a ground report.

Updated
India
5 min read

Video Producer: Hera Khan

Video Editor: Abhishek Sharma

“You have been sitting here so peacefully for so many days...we never thought everything would turn so ugly in a span of one day,” a CRPF personnel tells a farmer at an empty petrol station outside the protest site at the Singhu border.

It’s been more than 24 hours after the tractor rally on 26 January turned violent at Delhi’s Red Fort.

A restless crowd, dampened mood, fear of crackdown and “murdabad” chants echoed in the air at Singhu, where farmers have been camping for the last two months to protest against the three farm laws brought in by the government.

‘Dampened, Not Defeated’: Singhu Protesters After R-Day Violence
(Photo: Asmita Nandy/The Quint)

“I have never seen such sad faces at the protest like the ones I saw after the Republic Day chaos,” said Sarabjeet Kaur Sandhu, who has been running a medical camp at the protest site for the past 40 days.

“For a lot of elderly protesters at Singhu, this resistance is like a tapasya. They have been feeling extremely hurt with what happened at the rally on Republic Day,” she tells The Quint.

“Due to some negative elements, the atmosphere here had become gloomy but now we are getting back to normal gradually.”
Sarabjeet Kaur Sandhu

Slogan of the Day – ‘Beware of Miscreants!’

Sitting next to the makeshift library at the protest site is Harpal Singh, with a book in his hand. His eyes are closed as he hums a song. Later, after he finishes the song, he says someone had left a book of poems open on the table, and he decided to compose a tune on the spot.

“What happened was unfortunate but there is no dampening our spirits,” he tells The Quint.

Next to him is Simarjit Singh, writing slogans in solidarity with the farmers. He, too, has also been at the Singhu protest site.

“I had been writing mainly two slogans for people today – ‘Be aware of miscreants’ and ‘Convince your heart to remain peaceful’.”

“We should be careful about not spoiling our own agitation. We have been waiting so patiently here for so long. We will keep waiting patiently and return only when we get back our rights,” Simarjit tells The Quint.

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He says there has been no impact on the number of people at the Singhu border in the wake of the violence during the tractor rally. However, an independent journalist, Sandeep Singh, who has been covering the protest from the start, says the crowd seemed to have thinned because those people who had come just for the tractor rally have now returned to their homes.

Tractors with Nishan Sahib flags parked at the protest site in Singhu.
Tractors with Nishan Sahib flags parked at the protest site in Singhu.
(Photo: Asmita Nandy/The Quint)

Divided Over Flag Hoisting, United Over Media Trial

Poet and lyricist Amy Gill, who has been part of the protest since November, tells The Quint that he is “taking a break” from what he would do every day – write poems and songs about the farmers’ protest.

“I just need a little bit of time to process what happened on Tuesday. I don’t know what to do or what to think. I didn’t do anything the whole day today. I just need some more time.”
Amy Gill

Amy was one of the protesters who had deviated from the route approved by the Delhi Police. He recounts:

“On Monday night, despite repeated calls by the Kisan Union leaders to follow the approved route, some of the protesters had gone up on the stage and said they would not do it since the route decided by Delhi Police fell along the periphery of the national capital. They were addressing the crowd from the main stage so everyone along the entire protest site heard what their plan was. This group of protesters was led by Deep Sidhu and Lakha Sidhana.”

Amy added, “But, after their speech, none of the Kisan Union leaders took the stage and addressed the people. By morning, the protesters had split into different groups, going on different routes. There was no plan of going to Red Fort and hoisting a flag.”

The farmers’ union have accused Sidhu of being a “BJP agent”, citing his links with BJP MP Sunny Deol. However, Amy says, “Our leaders should not have disowned these protesters who have been sitting with us in our agitation for so many days, but I do not support hoisting the Nishan Sahib flag atop Red Fort.”

“The Nishan Sahib flag is very sacred to Sikhs. It does not need to be hoisted at Red Fort to be validated. It is bigger than that. Our rally was for farmers – and it should have remained about that.”
Amy Gill
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However, 25-year-old Bikramjit Singh, who had entered the Red Fort, disagrees with Amy.

“The Nishan Sahib flag unites us...an identity, as a farming class. We did not touch or damage the Indian flag at the Red Fort. A section of the media is spreading fake news.”

While Bikramjit’s statement differed from that of Amy’s on the hoisting of the flag, both agreed upon one thing – media propaganda.

Amy says, “Neither the farmer nor the government won from the Republic Day incident... the one who won was only the section of the media, who was looking to delegitimise us from Day 1.”

“Media branded us terrorists two months ago, they are branding us terrorists even now. Anyone who rebels is labelled as a terrorist. Do they not see our two months of peaceful protests? Do they not see our 150+ people who have died while agitating?”
Bikramjit Singh

Even as another section of protesters tried to distance themselves from the Red Fort violence, the fear of arrests and government crackdown stole the air at Singhu.

However, the atmosphere relaxed by the evening.

The queue at the pizza stall grew longer, the music on the tractors got louder, the huddle around the bonfires became bigger, and the evening prayers were heard on loudspeakers.

Farmers gather around fire as evening set at Singhu, a day after Republic Day violence.
Farmers gather around fire as evening set at Singhu, a day after Republic Day violence.
(Photo: Asmita Nandy/The Quint)
“Whatever happened was unfortunate. Both protesters and policemen have been hurt. This war has always been about patience. And we will win this with our patience.”
Amy Gill

More than 25 criminal cases have been registered, 19 accused have been arrested and 50 are detained till now. Meanwhile, farmer unions have postponed the march to Parliament, earlier scheduled on 1 February.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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