By our LRS Correspondent
The ongoing struggle of the farmers – one of the biggest protests by farmers in the history of India – is being supported by workers, students, youth, women’s organisations, and many sections of the working people including lawyers, office workers, and others. It also enjoys widespread support from Indians abroad and demonstrations in support of the farmers have been held in many cities abroad. Lok Raj Sangathan too has been actively supporting the struggle and activists of LRS have been visiting the various sites of the farmers protests on the borders of Delhi such as Singhu, Tikri, and Ghazipur to show our solidarity. We present below a report of a day at the Singhu border.
About a kilometre away from the Singhu border, the massive police deployment is clearly visible. Vehicles bound for Karnal, Chandigarh and beyond are diverted to the right but those wishing to go to the protest site go straight ahead. It looks like a war zone: the roads are blocked in multiple layers with huge concrete slabs, rolls of barbed wire, with policemen and women armed to the teeth standing by, and huge armoured crowd control vehicles fitted with water cannons watching over menacingly.
Going past this, one enters a different world – where farmers in their tens of thousands from Punjab, Haryana and other parts of North India have congregated. One sees volunteers cleaning up the streets, emptying the garbage bins meticulously; also, regularly cleaning up the makeshift mobile toilets that have been set up all around. Public washing machines have been set up at some places too. On both sides of the blocked roads, booths have been set up to provide medical and dental help, provide free medicines and daily necessities like toiletries. Hundreds of men and women toil at community kitchens – langars – and people of all ages stand in disciplined lines to collect their food. Other booths offer tea and biscuits. All this is made possible by a number of voluntary organisations who have come forward to support the struggle, and hundreds of volunteers who toil selflessly for hours on end.
Not just men, but thousands of women too are taking part in the protest, some of them tending to small children. Hundreds of makeshift tents, big and small have been set up to shelter the farmers. It is rather cold at this time of the year – going down to 4oC or lower – and sometimes a chilly wind from up Norths cools even further. The farmers generally have blankets and thin mattresses – and sleep either in makeshift tents or in their trailers or trucks – but do not have solid walls to keep the cold out. Their determination to carry on their protest for weeks on end in these circumstances is indeed exemplary.
Farmers have parked their tractors, trailers, and other vehicles on the highway beyond, on the Haryana side, in a huge parking lot that extends several kilometres. Several processions, carrying banners and flags of different farmers organisations, march past, shouting slogans demanding the withdrawal of the recently passed farm bills, and denouncing the Central government for ignoring the concerns of the farmers. Elsewhere, groups of men and women stand silently holding up posters listing their demands. A few people have embarked on a hunger strike to draw attention to the demands of the farmers. It is apparent that there are indeed a multitude of organisations of farmers from various parts of the states of Punjab and Haryana that are participating in the protests in complete harmony, for the single aim of repealing the farm laws and other laws detrimental to the interests of the farmers.
A big makeshift stage has been set up on the Delhi side of the border, in front of which a few thousand people sit and listen to the narratives of their fellow farmers. An even larger stage has been erected about half a kilometre away on the Haryana side of the border, in front of which several thousand people can be seated. At both, the day begins with kirtans and priests reciting Gurubani. Later, various speakers from different parts of Punjab Haryana, other parts of North India address the gatherings. A large number of women too addressed the gatherings, and their determination to fight for the rights of the farmers came across very clearly.
A representative of LRS was also invited to address the gathering. In his speech, the representative said Lok Raj Sangathan wholeheartedly supports the valiant struggle of the farmers. He pointed out that the three Acts on agriculture which we are all protesting, were passed without taking the opinion of the farmers into account. The protests are not only by farmers from Punjab and Haryana as the Central Government is making them out to be, but of farmers all over India. Indeed, farmers from MP, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and many other states have voiced their opposition too, and some have also joined these protests around Delhi – which is the capital of the whole country. It is said that there is democracy in our country – democracy should mean that what the majority of the people desire should be done – but is this happening in practice? The government did not even consult us before making these laws. Those who rule over us, come to us at the time of the elections asking for votes, promising to do what we, they people want. Once they get elected, they do only what the super-rich of this country want. This is not only true of the present government, but in fact has been going on for over seventy years. In fact, even in the past, it was the big capitalists like Mr Dhirubhai Ambani who decided who the ministers of the Union Cabinet should be. The same thing continues today. So, while we reiterate our determination to get the laws repealed, we must also fight for a system in which what the masses of people desire gets done – in other words, the real rule of the people. The speech was very warmly received with applause.
It was heartening to see many other organisations of workers, students and women also participating in the protests too. The whole atmosphere was very encouraging, and one left the venue with a feeling of optimism, that the people of India are indeed going to bring about positive changes through their struggles.