‘Choking Water Supply At Singhu Was Mindless, Heartless’

Wazihul, 19, describes the humanitarian and health crisis caused by hasty barricading of farmers protests sites at Singhu and Ghazipur borders. But protesters were not disheartened, he says

I am an engineering student and I feel strongly about the ongoing farmer protests, which is why I ensure that I extend my support to them whenever and wherever possible. Sometimes I go to the Ghazipur Border, which is closer home and sometimes to the Singhu Border, to express my solidarity with the farmers. Post the turn of events on Republic Day and in anticipation of the Chakka Jam on February 6, the government decided to barricade the farmers wherever they were positioned.

The hasty barricading was done using nails, concrete and barbed wires at the Ghazipur site and blocking even water tankers at Singhu. Clearly, not much thought was put into it. Which is why for many days the farmers couldn’t make use of portable toilets at Singhu Border. This was no less than a humanitarian and health crisis.

Barricading the protest site triggered a crisis

Even the policemen on duty and the public which had come in to extend support to farmers, were using whatever few facilities were functional. I leave it to your imagination to understand the situation created by the heartless and mindless decision. Women were having the most difficult time because of the lack of public facilities. Some were forced to relieve themselves in the open.

In times like these, when the pandemic hasn’t yet subsided (and even otherwise) hygiene is of paramount importance, the basic facilities should have been taken care of.

One of the things which I noticed was that the langar sewa, a lifeline of sorts for the protesting farmers, was also affected because of the protest sites being turned into literal fortresses. Perishable grocery items were difficult to reach because of the bandobast.

ALSO READ: ‘Providing Food To Farmers Is Sacred Act’

Earlier, we could access the main protest site directly, but later we had to take a long detour to reach the spot. Needless to say that this path was full of mounds of waste materials and one needed to be extremely careful while entering and exiting the protest site.

Even though the farmers and their supporters were disappointed with the measures in place, they were certainly not dispirited. In what can be said to be an extremely impressive step, as far as marks of protest go, the farmers planted various saplings of flowering plants as well as vegetables etc. Talk about keel ka jawab paudhon se dena (a fitting response by planting saplings to defy steel spikes).

Farmers planted saplings in response to spikes and barricades

The whole world is watching us and I feel that the way the government is treating the farmers is not in good taste. I hope the farmers remain optimistic and the government, a bit considerate and the matter gets resolved soon in favour of the farmers.

‘Red Fort Violence Was A Bid To Discredit Farmers Protest’

Imran Malik, 25, who participated in Tractor Rally from Ghazipur border to Seemapuri, says the march was peaceful and orderly. He feels the violence at Red Fort could be an attempt to discredit the movement

On January 26, I left my house early in the cold morning to stand in solidarity with our farmer brothers and sisters and take part in Kisan Tractor Rally with a few like-minded friends of mine. I am a resident of Delhi and support the farmers protest against Central agriculture laws. I come from a family of farmers in Uttar Pradesh and feel duty-bound to support our ‘anndatas‘ (providers).

We reached the Ghazipur border around 10 am, given the traffic was moving at snail’s pace. The atmosphere at the gathering point was electric; everyone around stood up for one another in true spirit of Republic Day celebration. There was an endless sea of tractors at the border and one could sense the binding spirit of the people fighting for their fundamental rights.

The security, as in every Republic Day, was really tight but the participants were also self-disciplined. A few people could be seen listening to the Prime Minister’s speech on their phones to find out if he had anything to say about them. The speech got over at around 12 pm and we came to know that many farmers present at other borders had removed the barricades and entered the National Capital.

ALSO READ: Global Implications Of Farm Laws

Soon, there were messages and news received on mobile phones that at certain points, there were clashes between protesters and police. Looking at the orderly march that I was a part of, it was imaginable that miscreants had penetrated into the rally participants. Kuch shararati tatvon ne movement ko bigadne ki koshish ki (Certain anti-social elements tried to discredit this movement).

However, there was no untoward incident in our cavalcade. We carried the Indian Tricolour with us and our tractor (belonging to a friend from Muradnagar) also had a music system fitted in it. We felt like we were all part of one nation, one voice. Indeed, it was a national festival.

Malik says his column of rally was orderly and peaceful

Our procession marched as was planned earlier and we moved from the Ghazipur border towards Seemapuri. En route, we met with posse of policemen, but the exchanges on both sides were cordial. After all, most security personnel in India too come from farming community. Rare is an extended family in India which is not involved in farming in some way or other.

By this time, around 1 pm, we received reports and messages that many protesters have entered Red Fort. I had no plans to go to Red Fort, so I left from home. Later I saw visuals of violence and clashes. I strongly condemn such incidents.

At the same time, the episode has forced the government to sit up and take note. The state has finally begun to listen to the people it claims to serve. Over the last few years, any group or individual who expressed any dissent would be treated disdainfully and dubbed as anti-national, or be blamed for identity politics.

But the government has been unable to find any chink in the formidable farmer protests. Ye movement bikhra nahi. The tractor rally yesterday was a symbol of determination that the farmers want to see this through to its logical end. The farmers are agitated because they are staring at a bleak future. The government which bulldozed its way through every other movement, such as one at Shaheen Bagh, should better sense the mood of the public and initiate dialogue in earnest.

‘We Are Prepared To Die, Let Govt Test Our Mettle’

Digambar Singh, a farmer from Bhadana, Punjab, says Narendra Modi machinery underestimated their resolve in putting up a brave fight against Central laws

Iss bar to aar-par ki ladai hai (It is a do or die situation this time). Just how much can the farmer bear? Some things are better left out of the purview of corporates. We are sons of the soil and we understand the land and its needs much better than corporates. The land we till is our mother, and not a profit making machine, even though we all like to earn well.

When I set out from Bhadana (Punjab) to reach Delhi for protest against the Central Agriculture Laws, I was sad to see that midway in Haryana, the roads had been dug overnight so that we couldn’t reach the protest sites. Heavy concrete barricades had also been placed to block us. Farmers were also being badmouthed. Tear gas, water cannons, lathicharge… but our resolve was firm. Nothing is going to stop us this time.

The government says the various laws are for our benefit and will open up bigger and better markets for us. But if I am a farmer who grows his crops in Punjab, should I go and check out the bigger, better markets in, say, Karnataka or should I be busy sowing the crops? There is already a system in place (adhatiyas) for purchase of our crops and the farmers have been reaping its benefits because of a guaranteed MSP.

ALSO READ: ‘A Farmer Isn’t Afraid Of Police Baton, Water Cannon’

Digambar Singh with fellow protesters at UP Gate protest site

Why try fix a thing that isn’t broken in the first place? You may improve on the existing processes but why do a complete overhaul and that too without proper dialogue with the parties concerned. Farming requires groundwork but the new laws are silent on MSP.

At present I am at the UP Gate (Delhi-UP Ghazipur border) with fellow farmers to register my protest and if the government is going to ignore our voice, then we will also ignore their voice during elections. Fir satta se bahar jane ki taiyari kar lein wo (They better be prepared to stay out of power in that case). Farmers across the country have been committing suicide for many years now and this year the Coronavirus has wreaked a deadly blow to our income. This is the time to protect farmers and let them know they are valued.

The nights here are cold, but we are well-prepared. We have brought rations to last us for a few days and we have also brought bhattis along to cook the food. Let’s see for how long we will need to protest. Sometimes you have to muster up all the strength you have to survive. We are not scared of Coronavirus even though we are taking all necessary precautions.

Our kids have lost precious study time, as rural households don’t have easy access to online learning. Our old parents are suffering. I hear the hospitals are in bad shape due to the pandemic pressure. Par jab marna hi hai to kyu na ladte mara jaye (But if we are destined to die, we shall put up a brave fight?). If the government really wants to help farmers, why not do it directly by strengthening the health and education systems in rural, agrarian zones?

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

Protesters have been camping at Delhi’s Ghazipur border for more than a week now