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Farmers React to Modi's Move: 'How Can We Celebrate? We've Lost Too Many Lives'

"Why should we have sweets now? More than 700 farmers have been martyred. They have attacked and injured us."

Published
India
5 min read

Cameraperson: Athar Rather

"Why should we have sweets now? More than 700 farmers have been martyred. They have attacked us, they have injured us. Through all this time, they insulted us. They called us andolanjeevi. The 'godi media' called us Khalistanis. Why should we celebrate?"
Prince Pal Singh, 34-year-old protester at Singhu

The protesting farmers have seemingly accomplished the biggest mission of this agitation - to get the Modi government to announce a repeal of the three contentious farm laws of 2020.

Yet, at the Singhu border protest site, the fountainhead of the farmers' agitation, most protesters aren't quite celebrating yet. Their relief at the announcement of the repeal is dampened by their loss - the farmers say that more than half a thousand of their fellow protesters have lost their lives during this long agitation of eleven and a half months.
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'Why Should We Have Sweets Now?'

<div class="paragraphs"><p>"Why should we have sweets now? More than 700 farmers have been martyred," says Prince Pal Singh, a 34-year-old protester at Singhu.</p></div>

"Why should we have sweets now? More than 700 farmers have been martyred," says Prince Pal Singh, a 34-year-old protester at Singhu.

(Photo: Meghnad Bose/The Quint)

Prince Pal Singh, a 34-year-old protester at the Singhu border, refuses to take the sweets being distributed in celebration of PM Modi's announcement that the government will repeal the three controversial farm laws.

On being asked why he won't partake in the celebrations, Prince says that the cost of achieving what they did has been too high.

"They attacked and injured us. They say 'Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan', but they pitted the jawans (security personnel) against the kisans (farmers)."
Prince Pal Singh, protester

Prince adds, "They questioned our patriotism. We are proud to be Indians. When Rajnath Singh says 'Jo bole so nihal', that is patriotism. But when we say 'Jo bole so nihal' here at Singhu border, we are called terrorists and Khalistanis!"

There is also a massive trust deficit towards the government in the minds of the farmers. Most protesters say they will only heave a sigh of relief and trust that their demands have been met only once the laws actually get repealed.

Prince makes a jibe, "When it comes to promises, even Rs 15 lakh was promised to all of us. We will trust it (the repealing) only when it actually happens."

'Decision Clearly Taken With UP Election in Mind, But We Look Forward to Finally Going Home'

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Jyoti came to Singhu with her husband and two children.</p></div>

Jyoti came to Singhu with her husband and two children.

(Photo: Meghnad Bose/The Quint)

Jyoti, a 35-year-old protester from Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh, says she has been at the Singhu protest site since around the time the agitation began.

She came here with her husband and their two teenage sons. They have been doing seva (service) and helping with the langar.

"We are feeling very happy today," a beaming Jyoti tells us.

Next to her, a fellow protester adds, "Now that it's over, we can go back. We feel very happy that we can all go home after this." Her name is Pinky Devi.

Pinky Devi has travelled even farther to be at Singhu. She hails from Bhagalpur in Bihar, and came here with her husband Arvind and their three kids.

"I have a 7-year-old son, a 10-year-old daughter, and a 13-yr-old son. The kids are also with us here, where else would we have kept them? My husband is here too, working as a volunteer."
Pinky Devi, protester at Singhu

Those like Jyoti and Pinky, and their families, remained committed to staying at the protest, and it is only understandable that they feel homesick after all this time.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Pinky Devi is happy she will finally be able to return home, and that too with a favourable result at the agitation.</p></div>

Pinky Devi is happy she will finally be able to return home, and that too with a favourable result at the agitation.

(Photo: Meghnad Bose/The Quint)

Asked about what they think prompted PM Modi's decision to announce a repealing of the laws, Pinky has no second thoughts. She says, "This has been done keeping the upcoming elections in mind, especially the polls in UP." Jyoti concurs that the government's decision has likely been fuelled by electoral concerns in UP.

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'Modi Has Effectively Told the Nation That The Laws Were Wrong, Protesters Were Not'

Sagar, a young protester and MBA student from Sonipat in Haryana, says "We saw our elders stand here in the cold and in the rain. At times, it felt as if there was no humanity left (to allow this to continue). The government and its supporters left no stone unturned to target us. They called us terrorists, Khalistanis, and what not. We still welcome the government's decision to repeal the laws, but had it come earlier, a lot of lives of protesters could have been saved."

Another protester at the site, who has come to Singhu all the way from Chhattisgarh, added "I come from a family of farmers, and have been here for the past three months. Today what I am happy about is that the prime minister has effectively told the country that the three farm laws that were there were wrong, and that the demands of the protesting farmers were not wrong."

An Added Reason to Cheer on Gurpurab

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Singara Singh, a 70-year-old protester at Singhu, has an added reason to be happy on Guru Nanak Jayanti.</p></div>

Singara Singh, a 70-year-old protester at Singhu, has an added reason to be happy on Guru Nanak Jayanti.

(Photo: Meghnad Bose/The Quint)

That the decision came on Guru Nanak Jayanti gave the protesters added reason to cheer. Sweets and laddoos that had been brought to mark the occasion of Gurpurab were distributed with the added joy of the success of the protests and the news of the government bowing down to the farmers' demands.

Singara Singh, a 70-year-old protester at Singhu, who came to the protest site from Malerkotla in Punjab, says "We are happy today, that it's on the day of Gurpurab. But let the work (of repealing) get done, then we can be happy properly."

From 12:46 in the YouTube video below, watch visuals of sweets being distributed among the protesters and our interactions with the volunteers who were spreading the cheer.

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Amidst The Mourning and Mixed Sentiments, Relief at The End of a 358-Day Agitation

It wasn't a scene of outright jubilation at Singhu on the day PM Modi made the sudden announcement of repealing the three controversial farm laws of 2020.

It was a scene of cautious relief, where the smiles of protesters at a job well done were punctuated by the sighs of those they have lost along the way.

It was a day when the protesters reflected on an agitation that has gone on for 358 long days, from 26 November 2020 to 19 November 2021. They say it isn't over yet. They say the protesters will continue to camp at the sites till the government "give it in writing", till they formally repeal the laws.

At the end of a tumultuous year, their mission however is on the brink of being accomplished. But the question that they say will linger on in their minds is - could it not have been resolved sooner? And if it had, would those they have lost along the way still been alive today?

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