Happy, Confident, Determined: Farmers at Singhu Border Mark One Year of Protests
The sound of gurbaani reverberated in the air, Nihang Sikhs groomed the horses & protesters felt a sense of victory.
"Jai jawan, jai kisaan..."
"Kisaan-mazdoor ekta zindabad..."
"Jo bole so nihaal..."
The air at the Singhu border on Friday was filled with chants and slogans as thousands of farmers flocked to the Delhi border to celebrate one year of the farmers' protest.
At the crack of dawn, the sound of the gurbaani reverberated in the air, the Nihang Sikhs groomed their horses, and breakfast langar comprising tea and pakodas began. The mood at the protest site, which is spread across several kilometres, was a range of positives – happy, confident, and determined.
Apart from celebrating a whole year of the Kisan Andolan, the rollback of the three farm laws, as announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 19 November, too, added joy to the atmosphere.
In some ways, Day 365 at the Singhu border was reminiscent of Day 1.
Among the protesters present at Singhu was Gursharan, a farmer in his 50s from Bihar’s Muzaffarpur – reminding many that the agitation began over a year ago. He said, “We have completed one year at Singhu but it all began much before that with rail roko andolans. Over 700 farmers have died since then, and while we’ve come to celebrate, we are also here to pay our condolences.”
Gursharan also added a sentiment echoed by many – that the rollback happened only due to the upcoming elections.
“They (the Bharatiya Janata Party) faced a shameful setback in terms of number of seats in several states last year. It's absolutely true that if the elections weren't about to happen, these laws would not have been repealed," he said.
Chanpreet, a protester from Punjab, told The Quint that while the “repeal is a victory for farmers,” the timing of it must be questioned. Reiterating a point made by many in the last one week, she said, “We won't go till the bills are repealed on paper. Why didn't he say anything the whole year? He does not want to lose the upcoming elections.”
By 1 pm, the crowds at Singhu had swelled exponentially with protesters pouring in from UP, Punjab, Haryana, and even Delhi. Babbu Maan songs blared on speakers attached to trolleys. In the evening, Maan also made a quick appearance at the site, sending crowds into a frenzy.
Every few metres, there were songs and sloganeering. The fragrance of special langars being prepared wafted through the air, while boxes of sweets did the rounds.
The Quint caught up with Sardar Sarabjeet Singh Virk, who has been organising a langar at the site since November 2020, and claims to have fed thousands since.
As he stirred a vessel full of hot rice, he said, “Today, we’ve prepared food for around 20,000 farmers. This is what we have been doing for the last 365 days.” On being asked how much ration has gone into preparing this langar, he smiled, and said, “There cannot be a count or a measure of how much ration is needed every day. It comes by the grace of the Almighty.”
Among those seen daily at Singhu border is 85-year-old Nichattar Singh, a farmer from a village in Ludhiana, who has been lovingly nicknamed 'Bapu' at the site.
“I was 85 years old when I came here, and now I am 86 years old,” he said, with a wide, familiar grin. Nichattar has put up a white board outside his hut that mentions the days he has spent at the Singhu border.
About PM Modi’s 9 am address on 19 November in which he announced the repeal of laws, Nichattar said, “I have no hopes from this government. This is just a gimmick to get us to leave. We have more demands than just the withdrawal of the three laws. MSP being a big one, apart from the death of over 700 farmers in the last one year. We also want justice for what happened in Lakhimpur Kheri in October.”
A similar statement was made by Kuldeep Singh, a farmer from Bihar's Patna Sahib, who said, “Modi's tears on TV won't solve problems. He wanted MSP to be guaranteed when he was Gujarat’s CM. Why is he reluctant now,” he asked.
Around 2 pm, senior Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Gurnam Singh Charuni arrived to address the gathering. "The Centre must consult the unions first. The agitation will continue till the guarantee of MSP is provided," he told The Quint.
Charuni further demanded adequate compensation for the farmers who lost their lives during the agitation and quick action against MoS Ajay Kumar over the Lakhimpur Kheri incident.
Addressing the gathering soon after, Charuni said: "Modi must understand. The issue of MSP cannot be brushed aside."
'Wahe Guruji Di Fateh'
Many have been 'behind the scenes' for the entire year and have kept the agitation relevant in several other ways. Jagdev Singh has been working as a freelance photographer at Singhu ever since the protest began.
"I have clicked more than a lakh photos here, of the people and their lives in the last one year," Singh said, adding that his pictures can be used by "any media house so that the movement keeps getting promoted."
Jagdev uploads the pictures on his Instagram and Facebook accounts regularly.
Another such social media handle for the movement has been the 'Tractor2Twitter' group.
“I have been working as a volunteer with @tractor2twitter. Our only goal is that the issues that Indian farmers are facing should be amplified globally. The things that the protesters say in Hindi or Punjabi, we translate them into English and share those clips," Gurjeet Singh Azad, a volunteer with the group said.
"There was a fake news campaign going on which was amplifying the government's side. The mainstream media was maligning and misrepresenting the farmers. We wanted to defend that. The Indian mainstream media did not work as media at all. To counter that, we lined up people, made a network. The motive was to show the truth that the mainstream media refused to," he said.
Jehangir, a farmer from Bihar has been working at the library at the Singhu border for a year.
"I want to say just one thing to the Prime Minister: Aee aasmaan, tu jo apni bulandi par itrata hai, bhool jata hai tu isi zameen se nazar aata hai. (Oh sky, don't be so proud, for you need to be watched from this very ground.)"
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