Songs of Protest: How Music Became the Voice of Farmers’ Movement

From Singhu Border to Tikri Border, The Quint met farmers who are singing songs of change.

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(On 19 November 2021, following a year of protests by farmers at the borders of Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the three contentious farm laws would be repealed in the forthcoming Parliament session. This video from The Quint's archives captured how several protestors used songs and poems to echo their demands. It was originally published on 13 January 2021.)

For over two months now, borders from Punjab and Haryana leading to Delhi have become home to lakhs of farmers staging protests against the Centre’s new farm laws. Protesting in and around the national capital in peak winter is no easy feat. So, what is helping the farmers continue their fight? The answer, among many other things, is — the songs of resistance.

The Quint travelled to Singhu border and Tikri border and caught up with several protesters who are using their poems and folk song compositions to echo the demands of these farmers.

Amy Gill, Lyricist

Amy Gill, a lyricist, has been a part of protests since November.
(Photo: The Quint)

Amy Gill, a lyricist who has been a part of the protests since November, told us that songs help lift the mood of the protesters and prepare them for the fight ahead.

“Often, people gather in the evenings. We sing and perform poetry. An atmosphere is created and people gather. We sing songs that we have composed here and songs which motivate us. We sleep with a very distinct thought and wake up with musings.”
Amy Gill, Lyricist

He further added that most of the songs are not composed by professionals. They are created by protesters in the crowd.

According to Gill, his compositions are inspired by the history of the Sikh culture which he has learnt after reading several books during the protests.

“Because of jammers, internet doesn’t work here properly, so in our free time, we read books. To be honest, this government won’t reap much benefit by keeping us away from the internet. It’ll only create trouble for them because now we are reading books,” he said.

Apart from writing poems, Gill also helps prepare langar at the Singhu Border where he is currently protesting. He says his poems have helped him with a distinct energy to stay at the protests for this long.

Kuldeep Singh, Protesting Farmer

Kuldeep Singh, a protester from Fazilka in Punjab, has composed a song on the plight of farmers.
(Photo: The Quint)

Kuldeep Singh, a farmer from Fazilka – a town near the border of India and Pakistan – has composed a song on the plight of farmers in India. Lyrics of his song reflect the hard work done and the hardships faced by farmers.

“This is the first time that I am singing this song publicly,” he said as we started recording him singing. Concerned about the plight of farmers, Singh says that the fact that a farmer doesn’t get to decide the price of his own produce, got him to compose the song.

“This song perfectly describes the atmosphere of our country these days. This is the first time that I am singing this song publicly. When you told me that you are here to record it, then I realised that everyone should hear this song and know that we don’t get to decide the price of the products we grow.”
Kuldeep Singh, Protesting farmer from Fazilka

Jurnail Singh, Protesting Farmer From Jalalabad

Jurnail Singh sings religious and patriotic songs at the Singhu Border.
(Photo: The Quint)

Jurnail Singh, a farmer, sings religious and patriotic songs at Singhu Border with his partners Sohna Singh and Ganda Singh.

“One day I saw someone singing which made me want to sing as well. When I sang, people around were very impressed. And everyone said that I should sing. So, I called my partners here. Now, we sing, serve our farmers, and try to keep the spirits of our brothers high with our songs.”
Jurnail Singh, Protesting farmer from Jalalabad

His compositions derive from the history of the Sikhs and the leaders of the community. In one of his songs, he talks about the desecration of the Golden Temple and the story of Massa Rangarh, a Lahore governor killed by the Sikhs.



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