From Despair to Defiance, How A Speech Changed Mood at Ghazipur
From reports of Ghazipur protest petering out to mobilisation of more farmers, what unfolded after Tikait’s speech?
“Whatever happens tonight will be God’s will. We are not going anywhere even if we are shot at or kicked down,” Amarjeet Singh, a protester at the Delhi-UP Ghazipur border, tells The Quint on Thursday night. It’s been a few hours since the Ghaziabad administration’s ultimatum to vacate the protest site.
Amarjeet then joins his fellow protesters in chanting ‘Satnam Waheguru’, clad in blankets and shawls, ready for a long night.
On the other end of the protest site are police and Rapid Action Force (RAF) standing in queue, with one of the cops calling out to his colleague, “Ready ho jao, abhi action hone wala hai (Get ready, there will be action soon.)”
However, by midnight, things start changing. The officials start retracting as it becomes clear that the farmers aren’t ready to be “intimidated” by the heavy deployment of force.
And their collective vow to not be “intimidated” is credited to an emotional speech by BKU leader Rakesh Tikait who changed how the night eventually panned out for farmers at Ghazipur border.
So how did the events unfold at the Ghazipur border before and after this speech?
- Noon: Farmers demonstrate against sections of media reporting that the protest at Ghazipur border is being phased out. While there are some vacant tents, farmers say, “Some people who had come for the 26 January tractor rally have returned and some more farmers would be joining the protest by evening.” The usual scenes at the farmers’ protest of langar being distributed, and ‘Jai Kisan, Jai Jawaan’ slogans went on, even as electricity and water supply remains suspended.
- 1 PM: A notice is issued to Rakesh Tikait and others over Republic Day violence in different parts of Delhi.
- 2.30 PM: Rapid Action Force (RAF) reaches the protest site, and carries out a march along the footpath opposite the main stage where protesters continued addressing the crowd against the farm laws. “They are trying to scare us by showing their numbers, but we are ready,” says a farmer as he gets others ready to stop the police from entering the protest site.
- 4 PM: Farmer union leader Rakesh Tikait reaches the spot with other leaders of the Bharatiya Kisan Union. There are reports of him “surrendering” to the police. By now, the UP administration has informed journalists in their official group that the farmers have been given an ultimatum to clear the Ghazipur site. Tikait says he will address the media from the main stage.
- 5 PM: As a crowd rushes towards the stage, a senior BKU leader tells this reporter, “This is the best option we have. We are all going to tell the police that we are ready for arrest.” Outside the barricades at the site, a group of men gather, chanting “Bharat Mata ki Jai” and calling the farmers “anti-national” and “terrorists”. They shout, “How can they insult our tiranga? They did not respect the country, we will not respect them.”
- 5.30 PM: Tikait takes the stage and says, “We are ready if police wants to arrest us. But this protest will not stop.” He asks his supporters to maintain calm and not harm the police officials or media persons. He also urges the Supreme Court to set up an investigation and punish the miscreant who hoisted the Nishan Sahib at Red Fort on Republic Day.
- 5.45 PM: Police starts surrounding the stage. Some of the senior officers, along with district administration authorities, go up on the stage to discuss the next course of action with Tikait, who asks the crowd to give them space to reach till the stage.
- 6 PM: Tikait takes the mic again and says, “I have been asking the police to remove the BJP supporters who are camping at the barricades since afternoon. Those people are here to create trouble. But they are not being removed.”
- He goes on, “I said I was ready for arrest but now I will not go anywhere from here because I know what these people will do to the protesters once I leave. I am not going anywhere. I will sit here, even if the police wants to shoot me, they can. But I am not going.”
- He then says, “All you people, get your bags and belongings to the main stage area. Distribute langar here. It will be a long night but we will stay here.”
- 7 PM: Drastic change in mood at Ghazipur protest. Farmers start packing their belongings from their tents, vacating them, while the police remain at position outside the barricades. As tensions simmer, Tikait remains seated on stage with other farm leaders.
10 PM: The mood changes again. Reports of huge mobilisation of farmers in Tikait’s home district in Muzaffarnagar. A mahapanchayat is organised at a government college on 29 January morning.
- 12 AM: By midnight, reports start coming in of more farmers joining in at Ghazipur and others planning to come to Delhi by 29 January.
Several experts and political commentators are crediting Tikait’s speech and his political history and influence in western UP behind this mobilisation.
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