‘Rihanna, Greta Have Amplified The Voice Of Farmers’

Neeraj Tyagi, a farmer leader from Mandola Village in Loni, Uttar Pradesh, says the Modi government which tried every trick in the book to suppress farmers’ voice is now worried about its global image

Galat ko galat, aur sahi ko sahi kahna, yehi ek insan ki pehchan hoti hai (A man of integrity will never be afraid of calling a spade a spade). I respect the fact that a global celebrity like Rihanna decided to speak up on the issue of Internet ban during farmers’ protest. I also respect the young child and environmental activist of mark, Greta Thunberg, who brought the matter to worldwide attention.

I think celebrity support, if given with good intent, helps engage people to look more deeply into a matter of public importance. Artists are sensitive, they feel deeply about other humans. We are all humans too, apart from being citizens of our respective countries.

When the largest democracy in the world is at risk, how long can people keep quiet? If Modiji and other leaders can comment on what is happening in other countries, why can’t international celebrities do it? As long as the language is not hateful and demeaning, people are within their right to raise their voice.

ALSO READ: Many Global Celebrities Spoke About Indian Farmers

The Indian celebrities who were sleeping while the farmers had been protesting, are now trying to defend the government, using a script drafted by the Ministry of External Affairs (#IndiaTogether #IndiaAgainstPropaganda).

Tyagi (far right) at a farmers’ protest site

Some are saying Greta Thunberg is a child and does not understand Central farm laws. I want to ask them: Do children not suffer during a crisis or disaster? It is in the interest of farmers that their issue are being talked about at global level. This will amplify the voice of the farmers and bring the government to the table for a meaningful dialogue.

Now, the government is concerned about its global image. Where was their concern when it was hammering nails on the road and barricading the border to stop farmers? Is a country’s image dented only when public figures question it and not how their leaders act?

ALSO READ: This Protest Is Modi Govt’s Biggest Test

Hasn’t this government come to power on the basis of sheer words? One of the major PR programmes during the 2014 elections was Chai pe Charcha; now it is shying away from charcha on matters of public importance. They brought in Farm Bills through ordinance, sidestepping any debate or dialogue.

This government tried to label anyone who questioned them as anti-national but now they are finding it difficult to suppress the voice of the farmers. The media too needs to stop taking sides and raise issue impartially rather than sensationalise them.

Discussion is the need of the hour. Parliament is a sacred place where even those who don’t have a voice, can find representation. The democracy is accountable to the people. And a democratically elected government should be able to answer when it is questioned.

As Told To Yog Maya Singh

Farmers’ Agitation Is Modi Govt’s Biggest Test

Forget the Covid pandemic; forget the economic downturn; forget election debacles or political crises. The biggest test that the Modi regime, soon to turn seven years old, has been subjected to during its ongoing tenure is the deafening protests by farmers against the changes that the Indian government has sought to bring about in the way farmers are able to grow, market, and price their produce.

In the last three months, protests by farmers have reached a crescendo. On January 26, which was India’s 72nd Republic Day, a group of angry farmers deviated from their designated protest route, tried to storm the historic Red Fort, and clashed with police. As that was happening, a few kilometres away, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was presiding over the official Republic Day celebrations on Delhi’s Rajpath.

At least 70 farmers have died during the raging protests against three laws that the government has passed. And, the protests, which began in the northern state of Punjab, have now spread across the country. What makes the controversial farm laws and the protests against them such a big trial for Modi and his government? For an answer, let us first recapitulate the new laws and their impact.

The three new farm laws change decades-old policies regarding procurement and storage of farm produce. One law permits the setting up of mandis (or trading places) that are de-regulated from government control—that is, where farmers can sell directly to all traders at prices they negotiate rather than to only government licensed traders; another law permits farmers to enter into contract farming through deals with corporate entities and to grow whatever crops they decide to under contract; and the third allows traders to stock produce with less restrictions than at present.

The government’s rationale for these changes is ostensibly this: they will enable farmers to sell at whatever prices they want and to anyone they want to; and to be able to enter into contracts that could assure them regular and steady streams of income. From the ongoing protests, which have been escalating, it is quite evident that the farmer community has not bought this logic.

Farmers and their supporters feel that especially the smaller farmers whose incomes are meagre will be hit by the new measures. First, their produce volumes are too small for them to be able to negotiate prices with traders who aren’t regulated—thereby they would likely be exploited. Second, although the government has assured that the mandi system will not be dismantled, farmers fear that the new “unregulated” mandis will consequently do exactly that, and that small and medium farmers will suffer. Lastly, contract farming, they fear is a way of giving the corporate sector easy access to the farm sector.

Nearly 60% of 1.3 billion Indians depend either directly or indirectly on agriculture, which accounts for 18% of the GDP. But the farm sector is severely skewed. Almost 70% of Indian farmers own land that is less than 2 hectares (20,000 sq. m) in area. And as much as a quarter of Indian farmers subsist below the poverty line. Moreover, because of lack of alternative employment opportunities millions of Indians depend on the farm sector without really contributing to productivity.

Against that background, reforms in the agriculture sector are overdue. But changing the system of pricing and procurement of crops without other structural changes in the sector cannot be a solution. In fact, it could lead to further suffering for millions of Indian farmers. The farmers’ protests are a sign of how acute the problem is. And, for the Modi government, it is the most critical test that it faces in its tenure thus far. In 2016, Prime Minister Modi announced a sudden decision to demonetise large currency bills. Ostensibly, it was with the intent of limiting or detecting unaccounted money in the system. What resulted was: widespread suffering for small traders, daily wage earners and other large segments of the population that operate in the “cash economy”. Those with so-called unaccounted wealth went largely unscathed.

Demonetisation was certainly a critical test that the government faced. But its effects—on economic growth and on small businesses—were not nearly as serious as the impact of the new farm laws have been. Over the last few days, the clashes between farmers and the authorities have turned more violent, particularly in the areas surrounding the capital city of Delhi. The authorities resorted to blocking of Internet in various areas around the capital and neighbouring states—purportedly in efforts to curb social media interactions. Police resorted to tear gas and baton charges against thousands of protestors. Already, the ripples of what is happening in India have reached the world outside. And questions are being asked about the true value of democracy in a country that prides itself as being run on the highest democratic principles.

ALSO READ: The World Is Taking Note Of Indian Farmers’ Protest

The police and authorities’ action against famers’ protests have also spilled over to affect others. A freelance journalist, Mandeep Punia, who was covering the protests, was arrested on the border between Delhi and Haryana last weekend. He was granted bail after spending two days in custody and much outrage. Others have had cases filed against them for reporting or broadcasting news that has been considered “anti-government”.

But the more serious issue is that India’s mainstream media has almost been rendered toothless in recent years, particularly after the current government came to power in 2014. It does not require media experts to see how the majority of mainstream TV news channels and print publications largely avoid taking on the government and critiquing its policies. When they choose to do so the critiques are of the milquetoast variety, tailored not to ruffle the feathers of those in power too much. In any democracy, the role of the media as the fourth estate should be that of a watchdog. In India, at least when you look at it from a dispassionately distanced point of view, it may seem that the mainstream media is more of a lapdog.

For the Modi government, the farmers’ agitation has other possible consequences. The farm sector’s voters aggregate as the largest block during any election. And although the government at the Centre is safely ensconced for the next four years, there are crucial state elections that are due and those could be impacted by which way farmers decide to vote. Also, if the agitations escalate and food supplies are affected across India, they could have other economic consequences such as inflation and distribution bottlenecks. Already reeling from the impact of the Covid pandemic, the economy could be hit further. For the Modi government the farmers’ agitation over the controversial laws could be something that could bring it to its knees.

Winning A Battle Does Not Win A War

In a civilian protest rally of a million or so, it should not surprise even the most naïve that a few hundred will take matters into their hands, run amok and engage in dramatic acts to gain attention. Governments often like these unplanned breakouts. They exploit the indiscipline of a few to the hilt, squeezing every drop of advantage they can get, even justify sending in the armed forces to crush the dissent. The mass tractor rally in Delhi has given the BJP government at the Centre that opportunity. It is yet to see whether it milks the situation or acts wisely. The media is already on the script.

The narrative of violent elements having hijacked the protest and secessionists hoisting the Sikh flag on Red fort (Lal Qila) are the headlines. There has been little coverage of the other 99% of the peaceful protestors.

But neither Farmers’ leaders not the millions around the world supporting the farmer protest should feel guilt, remorse or surprise. The leaders are not professional sergeant majors trained to manage a battalion of troops in discipline. Nor are the millions of volunteer protestors a well-heeled army of ‘marching’ cadres. The discipline of armed forces was on show a few miles away at Rajpath. The creative indiscipline of ordinary people was evident at the farmer protests.

There is also a long history of agent provocateurs disrupting well-intended peaceful demonstrations. Often state security services deliberately provoke or leave windows open for the aberrant breakaway groups. Yogendra Yadav, one of the farmer leaders, has already made a statement accusing the police of deliberately letting the sideshow happen.

Moreover, fringe groups who rarely get any publicity or support, piggy back on legitimate mass movements with dreams of precipitating a ‘revolution’. It happens everywhere in the world.

This sort of passionate acts and violence happened in the otherwise peaceful Rath Yatras led by Advani but which ended in the demolition of Babri Masjid at Ayodhya. Breakaway violence gave Trump headline excuse in America’s Black Lives Matter. It has happened in most big protests in Britain such as miners’ strike and the poll tax. It happened in the demonstrations in 1982 in Punjab.

ALSO READ: Global Implications Of India’s Farm Laws

It will be highly disingenuous of the Government to exploit the side show in the otherwise very peaceful demonstration to distract from the issues and use it as an excuse to crush the farmers. It will be a punitive win.

The vast majority of farmers concentrated on their intended protest. There were families, elderly and children. Many protests took place in other parts of the country. All the protests were otherwise peaceful except the ones in the Capital.

The Government may take out its old playbook and start the game of distraction tactics, arrests and charges. It will be tempted to make claims that national security is under threat and hope for a anti farmer public opinion wave to crush the protests. The now very compliant Indian media houses will oblige. Yet the Government may wish to make risk assessment of this failed policy.

This has been tried many times before. The exploitation of some indiscipline was exploited in 1984. The legitimate movement for greater state rights was labelled as a secessionist terrorist campaign. But it backfired with two prime ministers assassinated, a fractured country, demoralisation in the Army, rise of a new political fundamentalism and a country on brink of bankruptcy in 1992. It took some 15 years to get back on keel.

This time the farm laws protests are not confined to Punjab but have spread throughout the country. This time there is also a bigger menacing neighbour than Pakistan willing to exploit internal dissent. No number of shiny Rafale jets can control people’s movements as the mighty USA has found in the Middle East.

The grievance of the farmers are real, much as the Government would like to delude itself that it has been hijacked by Communists and secessionists. It is simply about land.

The country fights for every inch of land against its neighbours and invaders. The neighbouring countries want to expand territory and gain access to resources. India, like every country has a huge armed infrastructure in place to protect that every inch of land.

Farmers too fight for every inch of their little patch of land against predatory corporates and big money. Corporates want to take over their land to exploit the resources. Unlike a country, the farmers only have their legs and their will to fend off policies that favour corporate takeovers of small farms. What is so difficult to understand about that?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not been able to convince the farmers that his brand new wonderful laws are really for their (farmers) benefit. He has lost the argument. Pushing it with tyrannical or dictatorial force is neither democratic nor in the best interest of the country.

But Modi is no tyrant. Tyrants destroy those nearest them to consolidate power. Modi is too dependent on the party and the RSS to be a real tyrant. Does BJP want its image to be like the Baath Party of Iraq?

Modi is also not a real dictator. Dictators don’t usually bring in policies that endanger their rule. They are careful. Modi is a victim of his own myth rather than a true dictator

Moreover the Indian democracy does not really let tyrants or dictators last for long. Modi is a man caught in his own mythology. His party has built a persona of Modi the strongman who never does a U-turn. These sort of hyped-up public profiles do not work well in democracies. They end tragically for the person. They usually serve the interest of those who build the myth.

That is what happened to Margaret Thatcher. She fell on her own sword, brought down by her own party and financiers when they needed her no more. That is what happened to Trump in the end. That is what is happening to Boris. That may well be the tragic political end of Modi as those close to him dig in the knife and burst the myth. Democracies are built to oust despots, tyrants and dictators, not to boost their rule. Indian democracy is no different.

Powerful politicians are those who can do U turns without looking weak. PM Modi has left little scope for himself to open his arms and say sorry to farmers and repeal the laws. He and his coterie of myth makers think that will shatter the image of the strong man. It is foolish and its is dangerous. It is not political art. Politics is the field of compromises and sometimes the compromise has to be total for longer survival.

This is now a dangerous impasse for both Modi and the country. A heavy handed response and attempts to malign the farmers could trigger deep resentment and rebellions.

The fact is that both farmers and the government feel there is a need to bring in reforms. But the Government has listened to the wrong economists and policy advisors. Most of them are old retired economists still hooked on GDP rather than comprehensive economics that incorporate aspects such as security, people’s contentment, life opportunities etc.

Exploiting the side show in farmers protest and using the law and armed force may win the battle. But winning a battle does not win a war. That is what the Government should consider seriously. It will be best to treat the aberrant group of protestors just as that and let it be. Concentrate on the issue and the other 99%. Repeal the laws, work with farmers and bring a better set of policies and laws in place. The alternative is not good.

Watch – ‘We Feel Blessed By Serving The Farmers’

As farmers from Punjab and Haryana camp at Singhu border to demand rollback of three Agriculture Laws, members of the Sikh community have come out in support of the demonstrators. Many of them are providing free ‘Seva’ in the form of piping hot tea, fresh snacks and other food items to keep the protesters warm in the cold weather.

LokMarg this week spoke to several such ‘sevadaars’ who have set up langars that provide ‘Badam Chai’, an almond tea with snacks, and healthy snacks 24×7 to the protesters. These service providers say the facilities will continue as long as the farmers are stationed at the Singhu border. There is little doubt in their minds that the Centre will have to roll back the ‘black laws’ in the interest of the farmers.

Watch the full video here

‘The World Is Taking Note Of Indian Farmers Protest’

Gurcharan Singh, 54, a teacher in Toronto, says farmers protest has now become a people’s movement. Every weekend, he attends demonstrations before Indian consulate in biting cold

I have been a Canadian citizen for the last 25 years but that doesn’t mean I have forgotten India. My heart is still there and so is my extended family who are all farmers. Before I shifted to Canada 30 years back, I was a farmer in Punjab. I worked at the fields during my studies and even after I had taken up a job in India.

I still fancy farming and look forward to owning a farm in Canada in future. Therefore, I understand the challenges and hardships a farmer faces. I understand how unpredictable a farmer’s life can get and in India, MSPs are the only predictable thing for this community.

Since the matter was so close to my heart I braved the sub-zero freezing cold and the fear of coronavirus to take part in anti-farm laws protest in Canada. Major demonstrations and car rallies are held every weekend in our city outside Indian consulate while sporadic protests take place here and there as well. Each weekend, protesters drove down in various vehicles from cars, tractors, goods trucks, dump trucks, trailers etc, some from as far as 45-50 kilometres, to reach the consulate. I have attended all the weekend rallies since December 12.

A protester in Toronto displays his solidarity with Indian farmers

The protests have been peaceful. On December 19, we gathered at the centre of the city on Dundas Square (Toronto) where we were confronted by a Modi supporter. However, the organizers calmly requested him to go away. Then we were escorted by police and marched on city streets three kilometres to the consulate office. Nothing can stop us.

All three bills are very dangerous. If the first Bill gets passed, the corporates will kill state-run mandis and MSP system. I support MSP for all 23 crops. Even vegetables and fruits should have MSP, if we want to keep our farmers alive.

The second bill about contract farming is worse. Some farmers in Sangrur (Punjab) and Gujarat have already experienced its adverse impact in their dealings with cola major Pepsi. Moreover, the lack of dispute redressal mechanism can prove to be very dangerous for the farmers.

Third bill is about unlimited storage of crops. When under new law only one company (Adani group) will be controlling the storage and distribution to consumers, then they will be controlling the whole distribution process. Artificial shortage will be created and consumers will have to pay five times more prices.

ALSO READ: ‘Govt Wants Farm Sector To Go Telecom Way’

I am glad that Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau is openly supporting the farmers movement. Not only him, but the Opposition leader, Erin O’ Toole (Conservative Party) and Jagmeet Singh (New Democratic Party) also support the farmers. The idea of corporatisation of farming was tried in Canada some 40-50 years back and our leaders know what a failure it was, which is why they are standing with the Indian farmers.

A protester holds an anti-Modi placard in Toronto

I feel Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi is running away from his responsibilities. He is bending over backwards to please his corporate friends, Adani and Ambani. I think he is unable to accept his failure. Farmers from Punjab started this protest and now it has become a people’s movement. It has brought people from all religions, all professional backgrounds together like never before. The movement will stop BJP’s engine running on the fuel of Hindutva.

We will keep voicing our dissent in our part of the world. I do not have to take time off from work because most of the protests happen on weekends. I attend the protests with my wife, son (24), daughter (19) and family friends. Even though my children are Canada-born they do understand the ground realities of India.

My daughter drove nearly 100 kms from her University in Waterloo to the protest site just so she could register her voice. She also spent a lot of time making posters for the protests. I was filled with pride to see that first, second and even third generation Indians, including Sikhs, were present at the rallies. This is no longer just an Indian farmers issue anymore; the whole world is taking note of the situation.

Singh (in green turban) and other protesters brave freezing cold to voice their dissent

Watch – ‘Medical Langar Will Continue Till Farmers Are Here’

As farmers from Punjab and Haryana continue their protest at Singhu border, several Sikh organisations have set up medical kiosks at the protest site. The organisers told LokMarg that the facilities include digital check-ups for blood-pressure and sugar level, and medicines for common ailments or discomforts in cold weather.

Trained pharmacists run these units, aided by organisations like Akaal Aid and Initiators For Change, among others. The medicines and facilities are also provided to the local populace free of cost. Calling these units as ‘Medical Langar’ the organisers say the services will continue as long as the protests stays on, be it six months or a year.

Watch Full Video Here:

‘Providing Food To Protesting Farmers Is A Sacred Duty’

Farmer Harpreet Singh Mattu, 50, from Mehakpur in Jalandhar, Punjab, tells LokMarg whey he set up a 24×7 langar, with assistance from his brother Balwinder Singh in California, US, to feed protesters at Delhi-Singhu border

I feel these protests are a landmark moment in our lives and it is our contribution towards the life of future generations, so that can have an easier life than us. With the introduction of these three farm bills, the government has shown us that there is no need to build consensus before bringing in a new law.

Sahi kahoon to inhone loktantra se lok hi khatm kar diya (The truth is that the BJP has taken away people’s will out of democracy). If the farm bills are, as the government says, beneficial to the farmers, then why didn’t they bring it to the table before; people would have breathed easy.

Mattu (left) at the kitchen set up near Singhu border protest site

Apart from registering my voice at the protests, I am also doing sewa of other farmers by organising a langar. My brother, Balwinder Singh, who lives in California, US, called me before the protests started and said, “Let’s do it for our brothers. Let’s start a langar so that no one goes hungry in this biting cold during the protests.”

My brother is the pradhan at Gurudwara Sahib Riverside, California, which had orgnaised largescale langar (food distribution) in their area during pandemic to people who had been isolating. Since the idea originally took root in his mind, we kept the logo of California Gurudwara at our langar sewa.

I believe human hearts are all the same everywhere. The pandemic has shown us that we are all in this together and thus we have to help each other in times of need. Providing langar to people is a sacred duty. Even during the pandemic the Sikhs ensured that no one went hungry.

Mattu with his teammates at the protest site

Slowly more people have started joining us. In the beginning I brought along three trucks (my own) full of food, utensils etc. About a dozen halwais (cooks) and four assistants accompanied us so that we could work in shifts and get ample rest.

We can’t do sewa of some people at the cost of others. We take full precautions for coronavirus and keep sanitising the kitchen. Cleanliness is a way of life for the Sikhs, as you must have seen all Gurudwaras are spotlessly clean and no one thinks cleaning is beyond them. A lot of people volunteer for us and we have managed to feed thousands of people since December 2, when I first went to Delhi.

ALSO READ:  Langar In The Times Of Covid-19

Here, we make sure that the food is always served hot and that there is variety too. I must really thank the farmers from Haryana who give us fresh vegetables and milk for the langar. Also, people behave in a disciplined manner and ensure that everything is disposed of properly.

I wake up at 4 am to get things started. The first thing to go up on the fire is tea and we make nearly 13 huge containers of tea every day so that our farmer brothers can start their day with a warm cuppa. From 4 in the morning I work non-stop till 9 am. After that I take a small break and get back to work at 10:30 am, only work till 8 pm when I call it a day. Then I go to sleep. That is my routine here.

With his son early in the day at kitchen

I did take a day break to visit my hometown to attend the funeral of a fellow farmer’s father and also to check up on my own father who has not been keeping well. That was the only time I missed the sewa here. We have to manage both family and country and farmers are really good at multitasking.

I now wish to bring mobile washrooms to the protests site in Delhi. I have customised another truck of mine into mobile washrooms. It is important to take care of hygiene any way but more so in times of a pandemic. I hope the government also sees and understands what the farmers are trying to say and take away these bills in the interest of the nation.

Mattu with his team at Singhu border

‘Many UP Farmers Didn’t Join Protest Due To Crop Pattern’

Ram Swaroop Singh, founder member of the Consortium of Indian Farmers Association, explains where the Centre erred on Farm Laws, and why farmers from states other than Punjab-Haryana are not protesting

I must say that the Union government hasn’t done a good job either in drafting the three farm bills, which they claim are beneficial to farmers, or in communicating the provisions under these laws to the farming community. The government didn’t take farmers into confidence before pushing these laws, particularly in a democracy.

This year has been uncharacteristically tough on everyone because of the raging pandemic and people are more worried about their future than usual. It is in times like these that we need a compassionate government even more. Mujhe lagta hai ye government logon ya kisano ki parwah nahi karti (I believe the current government has little concern for the poor or the hand that tills the land).

The farmer grows more food than is required for his own family. Yet, over the decades, his income has remained stagnant. He is the least paid among all the sectors for his services. Surely, agriculture sector needs a complete overhaul, but in favour of the farmers, not in favour of corporates.

ALSO READ: ‘Govt Wants Farm Sector To Go Telecom Way’

Several people have pointed that only Punjab-Haryana farmers are protesting. True, the ongoing protests around Delhi-NCR are predominantly by farmers from Punjab and Haryana, then say from states like Uttar Pradesh or Bihar. But there are various reasons behind it.

First, the pattern of agriculture is different in separate states in India. UP farmers grow less crops (in quantity) even though the variety of crops may be more. Besides, it’s the time of reaping of crops grown in UP (like sugarcane), while the Punjab-Haryana farmers are already done with the harvesting and have some time on their hands before the next sowing season begins.

Second, the Centre has so far been procuring wheat and paddy crops mainly from Punjab-Haryana for Public Distribution Systems and thus a stable and consistent MSP in place benefits them more than farmers from other states. Farmers from other states don’t have such ready markets. Farmers in UP also have small land holdings in comparison to their counterparts in Punjab or Haryana. In addition to this, farmers in UP are also less aware of the happenings around them.

WATCH: ‘We Haven’t Heard Of Farm Laws Or Protests’

Yet another reason is that unlike in Punjab-Haryana where the joint family system still persists, there is division of land in UP into small parts which aren’t very beneficial, as very little grain crop can be grown in that land area. The Uttar Pradesh Imposition of Ceiling of Land Holding Act, 1960 doesn’t allow a person to hold more than 12.5 acres of agricultural land. Thus farming remains a poor man’s vocation.

Our (Consortium of Indian Farmers) Association has been active for the past 10 years. We have been demanding that the MS Swaminathan Commission Report needs to be implemented as soon and as honestly as possible if we are to alleviate the rural distress.

Singh says the Centre should have taken farmers into confidence before bringing in agri laws

I have worked closely with farmers with guidance from my late father-in-law Chaudhary Chandrapal Singh, a farmer leader and minister in the state government. In my view, the government does not listen to the parties concerned. It is a statesman virtue to communicate well with the public. I wish the Centre could take a leaf out of Jagan Reddy, the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, who attentively listens to all policy recommendations and takes decisions in a composed manner by taking the concerned into confidence.

‘A Farmer Isn’t Afraid Of Police Baton Or Water Cannon’

Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Nirdesh Choudhary, 40, has been protesting at Delhi-UP border for several days in the cold. Choudhary says farmers are willing to endure the hardship for their children’s future

A farmer’s nerves are made of steel and the resolve firm as a stone. We don’t protest on small matters, but when we do the government better sit up and take notice. We can bear hunger, thirst, rain, winter nights and what have you… only to ensure that the future of our children is secure.

After all, we go through all these while working in the fields. Hum raton me kai baar khet pe hi sote hain, bahut zyada thand me bhi, sadkon ki thand hamara kya bigadegi (We often sleep in the fields to take care of our crops, at times in the dead of winters. So, we can tolerate the cold here). I have been using my voice to protest the three agriculture bills since November 28. I went back home briefly to check on my family and house, and am back with renewed strength now.

We are not scared of the police or their batons or water cannons. I was roughed up by cops, but I take it as my contribution to a larger cause. We have put everything at stake to let the government know that this is not the way to treat farmers. The government thinks corporates will bring about another revolution for the farmers, but it won’t.

ALSO READ: When The Farmer Fights Back

We want the government to give us in writing that the MSP will be maintained or the protests can go on indefinitely. Ye kale kanoon hum nahi manne wale. The thing is we farmers have nothing to lose anymore. The farmer was anyway at the lowest rung in the profit chain and the pandemic this year has meant even lesser earnings. Maybe we fight the best when we have nothing to lose. We as farmers are not going to get bogged down this time.

BKU activists at Delhi-UP border protest site

It does get difficult sometimes, like I had to take a bus to reach the spot and then had to walk a decent distance to reach the venue because of the barricades. Sometimes you wonder about your kids back home but then you remember the larger cause and forget the personal issues. We have got our own dry rations to cook and eat here, and all this gets tiring sometimes, but then we take strength from the collective spirit.

Covid looms large but we are maintaining full social distance and taking all necessary precautions; we distribute masks every day and ask people to carry sanitizers. We try to maintain utmost hygiene while cooking, eating etc. However, the government needs to understand that if we survive the pandemic we need something to survive further.

WATCH: ‘Shoot Us In The Chest, We Won’t Turn Back

The farmer has no safety net at all, no pension, nothing to fall back on except crops, and if even that is taken up by corporates, where do we go? There are few women out here, numbering between 100- 150 and if need be more women will join the protests. Female farmers are one of the most resilient, hardworking and smart people you will come across. We are not scared of risk taking and have the capacity to make quick decisions.

Police barricades at Delhi-UP border near Ghazipur where farmers are protesting

Farmers have decided we will not go to Burari site, we will go straight to Jantar Mantar. I wonder why Modiji said that other parties are misleading us into protesting. As if we don’t have a mind of our own. If we are smart enough to raise crops year after year that feeds the whole country, aren’t we smart enough to make our own decisions? Kisan apne ghar se nikal aaya hai aur is baar baatcheet poori honesty se honi chahiye.