This is a first-hand account of the author who has been reporting from the protest sites at Delhi borders. The article is a summary of her experiences with the farmers at the protest sites.
The farmers are protesting against the infamous farm law reforms brought in by the Narendra Modi-led central government, for almost sixty days. The demand of the farmers is crystal clear, it is to abolish the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act. The spirit and rage with which the farmers had started the movement remain untouched even to this day; infact, I would say as time is passing by the farmers are seemingly more determined to win their struggle against the government. It is only when every single protester is conscious and well aware of the reason that has brought them together, that a protest like this can be long-standing. Anyone who would visit the borders of Delhi to participate with the protesting farmers can sense and feel this awareness among the protesters. This collective consciousness of the protesters that have upheld the unaltered and long sustained spirit of the farmers, generates curiosity in their protest and compels one to spend time with them.
Educating the Masses on the Farm Laws
Every protester here knows what brings them to protest at the borders of Delhi, they have a strong foothold in their expectations from this historical protest. The protesting farmers and their leaders across the Singhu, Tikri, Gazipur, Chilla, Shahajanpur, Darohera, the five borders of Delhi have taken up the responsibility to educate the uninformed protesters. Many stages are exclusively set up for this purpose to educate the storm of protesters about the issues with the farm laws and the demands of the protesting farmers. Several experts, farmers, and farmer leaders discuss and share their views on the farm laws from these stages everyday. Several organisations like Bharath Kisan Union (BKU) are involved in printing these anti-farmers’ laws in several languages and distributing the copies among the protesters. This importance bestowed upon informing every single protester can be seen as a fuel that has kept the protesting farmers rooted and involved.
Langar- There is no place for Hunger!
If the informed selves of farmers are contributing towards keeping up the spirits of the movement, the langars, the communal free kitchen, run by the Sikh community are doing the same by providing the protesting farmers with tasty and fresh food. For me who was used to seeing protesters tired and famished in the heat, the site of protesters geared up with unfathomable energy around the clock was a refreshing sight. There is no place here for hunger. The sentiment of love and care attached to the idea that no protester should be in an empty stomach reminded me of the protesters fainting and falling sick in other protests.
The brotherhood one sees between the Sikh community and the protesting farmers here is compelling and encourages us to imitate this brotherhood. It is true that the farmers’ protest, when started, captured much of the attention due to the food. The reason for this is the topnotch quality of the food served in these langars of the Sikh and Haryanvi community. Protein rich food with varieties of pulses cooked in desi ghee (organic clarified butter), a rich array of sweets, and a great many fruits are in continuous supply. Their principle is, no one should protest on an empty stomach; thus I would say, this protest is nothing like any of those protests we have read and seen. I hope the love, affection and the commitment to service of these protesters would move the hearts and minds of those who had resorted to and continue to undermine this protest by making fun of the langars.
Unity despite the differences
One thing that is visible and is haunting across the borders where farmers are protesting is their unity. There are farmers from the length and breadth of India; they are all different from each other and there is a multiplicity of culture, religion, caste, class, language, and diverse views. Their only goal of fighting against these monstrous laws has brought all of them together. One can hear only one thing from children to the elderly, i.e. the government should repeal the three anti-framers’ laws.
The notions of service among the Sikh youth have largely ensured that the protest goes on successfully for this long. Irrespective of their socio-economic background they have volunteered to clean the footwear of all the protesters. Some have even resigned from their jobs abroad to serve the protesters- while some have dedicated themselves to stitching clothes, some have taken up the responsibility of laundry and others are giving massages to the tired. This site has a deep emotional impact on those visiting these protest sites. One has to get themselves out of prejudices to be able to see reflect on this.
It is common to find an organisation or a political party backing protests. Ruling governments find it easy to snub these protests by spreading rumors and fake news about the integrity and the intentions of the protests. There is no chance of that happening here. It is impossible not to notice that this protest is being organised by farmers all by themselves.
A True Democracy is possible only by the People
Delhi has for long attracted tourists and is known to be a prominent city in the country. The cities that have formed across the borders of this prominent city have their own stories. People from Delhi and neighbouring regions have started to visit these cities now. Families that are visiting these sites, sit with the protesting farmers along with the children to discuss and learn about the movement. They buy books from the bookstores and libraries that have been erected here. They actively participate in the ongoing discussion. Many even celebrate the birthdays of their children. They read songs and poetry that breathes in life to the protest. Those who visit these protest sites are of the opinion that this historical protest would be marked as a prominent chapter in the country’s history.
The place assigned to the politicians in this farmers’ movement demands our attention. Political leaders are prohibited from stepping on to the stages here; they are not allowed to stand with the protesters in the background while giving bites to the journalists and most importantly they cannot bring the flags of their political parties. They however can sit with the farmers and take part in the protest. Farmers are showing us that no movement requires the backing of any political parties and that true democracy is possible only by the people.
It might have been just sixty days since the first Delhi chalo call. We have to note that the protest has been going on in Punjab for more than five months. Even to this day, Punjab is actively carrying out the rail roko (stop the train) movement in the state. As farmers themselves say, their movement is not against any political party. It is against the government which has passed these laws. According to them, the movement would have taken this form irrespective of the parties in power. The farmers of this country have shown us that movements could be carried out in such a distinct manner and pave the path of an ideological revolution. Farmers have already celebrated lohri festival ( the harvest festival) as kisan lohri. The farmers burnt the copies of the farm laws in the ritual fire. They have now decided to celebrate republic day as farmers Republic day by carrying out a peaceful tractor rally. The farmer leaders have informed that there will be farmers from Punjab, Rajasthan, Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and other states who would join this rally with their tractors. Finally, the farmers of this country are determined to celebrate the republic day as kisan republic day (farmers’ republic day).
The article was published in Nyaya Patha( Kannada weekly) and is translated into English by Yogesh S.