‘If AAP Fails To Deliver, Punjabis Will Never Forgive It’

Jashan Gill, a Punjab voter who defied family loyalties to pick AAP over Akali Dal and Congress, says the party stands at a juncture from where it can make or break its future

In 2014 General Election, it was for the first time that I voted for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Punjab has been enthusiastic about the party since its inception. And this was the reason, four AAP candidates were elected to the Lok Sabha on their debut contest from the state.

In the assembly election of 2017, the AAP emerged as the main opposition with 20 seats. And now, in 2022, eight years since its journey began in Punjab, the party has been able to form government in the state with a clear mandate. Punjab’s voters found them as a viable alternative to the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal.

This change was impending for long. Both the SAD and the Congress had been unable to fulfil the expectations of the people of Punjab. The border regions of the state have been infested with drugs menace and there is widespread belief that the SAD has a vested interest in it. During their rule, the corruption in the state also reached at its zenith.

Punjabis therefore rooted out the Badal government in 2017 in favour of the Congress. But the Congress didn’t fulfil its promises either. Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh became too complacent after the win and forgot about his poll promises of development.

The situation at the party further deteriorated when inside scuffle broke out in the open, making it a laughing stock. The chaos was too much to bear. Even during election people didn’t know who would be the chief minister of the state if the Congress came to the power.

Gill (left) says Punjab has high expectations from Bhagwant Mann and Arvind Kejriwal

This clearly turned people’s attention towards the AAP leadership. The party projected Bhagwant Mann as the chief ministerial candidate in the state election and the decision found favour with the voters. For, in the past eight years, since 2014 general election, Mann has done commendable work in his constituency and showed his commitment towards the people. It was no surprise that Punjab gave him a chance to work for the entire state.

ALSO READ: Punjab Will Reclaim It Glory Under AAP Leadership

We have already started witnessing the change since AAP came to power in the state. The first priority of the party, which was about stopping corruption has already been enforced. The government employees, who would brazenly ask for bribes earlier, are now scared of making such demands from people. They are afraid of stern actions now.

The conditions of hospitals and schools in the state is already showing improvement. You can visit a hospital and feel the change in the atmosphere. We believe that Mann government will also address the issue of drugs soon. Farmers too have a lot of expectations from this new government. They believe that the AAP leadership will find a solution to receding water table and provide minimum support price for all their crops.

If the party successfully fulfils its promise in the state, it will pave a path for the party to emerge as an alternative to the BJP in other states and eventually at the Centre. As an AAP supporter I hope that it emerges as a challenger in states like Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana where elections are likely to happen late this year.

AAP is standing at a crucial juncture in Punjab from where it can write its own future. Punjabis have put their faith in AAP and if they fail to keep their promises, the people will never forgive them. It will be uprooted from the state once and for all. The people of Punjab have voted for development and they will not settle for anything except development.

As told to Md Tausif Alam

‘Punjab Will Rise And Flourish Again’

Tejinder Singh, 60, district president (Jalandhar) of Aam Aadmi Party, says party office is flooded with calls from people to act as volunteers

I have been associated with the Aam Aadmi Party since 2016 and I feel very elated that the people of Punjab have given us such an overwhelming majority in state Assembly. It will help us to bring about required changes in the state now easily. People are super happy too because everyone wanted change, logon ko azadi mil gayi hai.

Earlier governance was moving at a snail’s pace and the common man’s work would languish. But people have put their faith in AAP because they know we care, after all our candidates are all ordinary folks, people who understands concerns of the common man.

Our whole office was abuzz with extraordinary energy on the day the results were declared. Sweets were distributed among the party workers and we met up and congratulated each other. We had expected a good performance but we had not expected such a humongous response to our efforts. I feel satisfied that we were able to convince people to give us a chance to genuinely serve them, especially in the area of education, healthcare etc.

Tejinder Singh (in yellow turban) celebrates party win in Assembly elections

We started door to door campaigning nearly 2.5 years ago and actively listened to the concerns of the people from every section of society. People have voted beyond caste and community lines for good governance. After all at the end of the day everyone wants to feel secure about basic facilities, which we are determined to provide. Be it rural or urban areas, we reached out and people responded.

ALSO READ: ‘Punjab Will Reclaim Its Glory Under AAP’

Every day hundreds of calls are pouring in and people want to volunteer for us; people love the idea of being a part of governance. The good work done in Delhi served as a point of reference for most voters, however it wouldn’t be wise to say that the socio-economic concerns of the two states are the same. Issues like drug menace will take longer to uproot and lots of local leaders will need to step up.  

We are determined to help Punjab flourish once again. When the farmers protests were going on we didn’t lose sight of many other concerns that were equally important and I am glad that we have got the votes of farmers as well. People were determined to vote for change this time no matter what and iss bar sabnein ankhein khol ke vote diya.

One of the reasons people also trusted the AAP was because of our groundwork during the pandemic as well as during the vaccination stage. We got ourselves vaccinated first so that people could see it was safe and that it worked. We hope to continue with the same leadership style; we will face the problems first head on so that they don’t reach common people.

The BJP, Akali Dal, Congress will now understand how important it is to connect with people at an emotional level. We believe the Aam Aadmi Party government led by Bhagwant Mann will usher Punjab towards a golden future.

As Told To Yog Maya Singh

‘I Will Bet On Arvind Kejriwal To Sweep Punjab Polls’

Baneet Sharma, 37, a French teacher in Nabha (Punjab), says Aam Aadmi Party can rid state of its major problems like corruption and drugs menace

In my 37 years of life I have been keenly observing the political landscape of Punjab. As far as my personal understanding of the state is, based on in-depth creditable media reports, Punjab is facing three main challenges: corruption, drugs menace and falling education standards due to mindless privatisation in the sector.

These issues dominate the ongoing state assembly election campaign. As a teacher, I have witnessed first-hand how a whole crop of engineers and other professionals are being churned out without any proper knowledge of the subject matter. In Punjab there are a lot of these private universities that are appealing on the surface but don’t have the tools, faculty and the setup to teach say a subject like Aeronautical Engineering or even lesser niche subjects. This affects the supply of trained human resources. So, any party that cares about the issues of the youth is a winner for me.

Thus, Mr Arvind Kejriwal is a winner for me, for the AAP Government in Delhi has turned around the quality of government school education. Kejriwal is a highly knowledgeable leader who understands the value of formal education. I will support Bhagwant Mann as the chief minister only because he is backed by Mr Kejriwal. The state has tried Akali Dal-BJP combination as well as Congress in government. Their years in power have done little for the state. I think it is high time we gave a new party the chance.

Sharma (right) feels AAP can bring about the desired change in Punjab politics

In these tough times of pandemic, a party in power must care about the middle class. The poor can avail of free ration and other help while the rich have savings. It is the middle class which suffers the most. I am a teacher and in the last three years have seen various educational institutes either folding down or operating erratically during the many lockdowns.

ALSO READ: ‘AAP Will Win Punjab, Kisan Morcha Needs Time’

How are we supposed to earn a living? How are we supposed to feed our families and take care of their immunity, medical and other needs? We have EMIs to pay, loans to repay and other expenses that keep rising. We need a party that can see through the pain of people. People need stability in uncertain times and politicians should step in.

Captain Amarinder Singh toh Raja Sahab hain. He isn’t here to serve, but to relax. Navjot Singh Sidhu on the other hand is hyperactive. He speaks so much and makes little sense. He treats politics like a cricket pitch. He always wants to hit sixers and the audience applause. Politics goes deeper than that. Congress should understand Sidhu isn’t a great leader.

As far as the political party floated by farmers Sanyukt Samaj Morcha is concerned, I feel it will only act as a vote cutter for the Akali Dal, BJP and Congress. Akali Dal has so far asked for votes on the basis of religious identity and have won, but now the Janata is disappointed in them. Farmers are particularly disappointed in them and their votes will now likely go to AAP.

But at the end, I hope whoever leads the state, serves its people well and takes note of the needs of each class, and all major issues faced by the state.

Weekly Update: The Flyover PM; Putin’s Khrushchev Moment; Political Petri Dish

Prime Minister Modi’s attempt to do a flyover visit in Punjab and get stuck over a flyover is a skit for satire if it wasn’t for real. The repercussions are still going around the social media with all sorts of threats, counter threats and allegations. The Prime Minister himself, who no doubt could easily get a job in Bollywood were he to lose his current role as ‘leader of India’, was as dramatic as ever.

‘Tell the CM I made it live to the airport’. Precisely who was threatening him is also a mystery. ISI? ISI don’t know what to do with a target if it was standing in front of them. They only work through ‘underground agents’ after coasting the target over weeks, if not months. ISI likes ‘clever’ games. It is a habit. Besides, that would have led to a war and ISI, for all its anti-India activities, isn’t quite ready for a war. Let us rule ISI out.

Sikhs? Why would Sikhs want to kill him? They just won the farmer protest having damaged him beyond repair. Modi is like a dead man walking in Punjab. Punjabis don’t respect losers. He lost and no point on inflicting more on him. His very presence is their victory. Some farmers simply obstructed his path and told him ‘Delhi wapas ja Bharava’ Go back to Delhi brother.

A Congress wallah? The Congress only kills people through the police and Army. They did enough in the 1980s and 1990s. They don’t do Jhatka, i.e do the work themselves.

It seems the only people threatening the beloved Modiji were Modi Bhakts. There was a bus load who were suddenly elated that they came almost face to face with their god and collectively said several times. ’Modi ji ki Jai’.

Modi ji, who doesn’t even give press interviews or face people directly and only speaks at big rallies through a bullet proof glass wall, was suddenly physically confronted by the sight of his worshippers in close proximity. He was obviously unnerved. This was a new situation for him since becoming PM. They are meant to be behind ropes and barriers, clamouring to touch his feet, not two yards away on a flyover. He misread their adulation as threats.

But what was Modiji doing in Punjab? After the protests ended in November, there were no hugs or stuffing laddoos in each other’s mouths. He took back laws. The Punjabis are still suspicious. A committee has been formed. But he decided to go over to Punjab. He probably thought to say, ‘No hard feelings’. The farmers probably thought he has come over to show that he is still Boss.

For a seasoned politician, it seemed a bit naïve to think that he could go over to Punjab and be greeted with garlands. The protestors had occupied several roads to stop any Modi Bhakts to get to the ground where he was going to speak. But they got lucky and managed to stop Modiji himself from getting to the ground, which was going to be mostly empty anyway.

For a ‘helicopter’ PM who flies everywhere, travelling on an Indian Road must have been an experience itself. And then getting caught over an India made flyover with no opportunity for a helicopter to ‘save’ him from his Bhakts, must have been another nightmare.

Instead of complaining about the hapless Punjab Chief Minister who had made all arrangements for Modiji to get to his empty ground by helicopter, Modiji needs to haul his transport minister and order him to build better flyovers. Flyovers where a helicopter can land and whisk the dear leader off, away, from his fans. Meanwhile his statement, ‘Buch je agya hun’ (I have come back safely), is causing roars of amusement in Punjab, further denting his muscular profile. ‘Kis se Buch ke ayaa hae bhai’ (who did you save yourself from? Who was threatening you?)

Putin’s Khrushchev moment

Putin has gone into a high stakes poker game with the United States. Having amassed some 100,000 troops and heavy equipment on the borders of Ukraine, Putin is threatening war unless US gives assurance that there will be no deployment of NATO forces in Ukraine and Ukraine won’t be permitted to join EU. Biden and EU are so far refusing. Putin is said to be threatening to install missiles again in Cuba.

This is a rerun of the 1962 Cuban crises. The head of the Soviet, Nikita Khrushchev, decided to install missiles in Cuba, an independent Island country only some 80 miles from Florida, US coast. The US under Kennedy, circled the Island with its Navy and blocked further supplies. A threat of war was looming. The Soviet (now Russia) wanted US to remove its missiles from Turkey in return. The standoff lasted about a month. The Soviet took away its gear. Khrushchev lost face in the Soviet and had to resign for showing ‘weakness’.

Strongman Putin now faces the same dilemma. He started a political poker which will only conclude with him or Biden losing face. For some time Ukraine has been seen as a possible NATO army base. Ukraine has also been openly saying that it will join the EU if permitted. Both are seen as evidence of Russia’s loss of power in that region.

Putin took over the Crimea in 2014 and part of Eastern Ukraine (Donbas) in some swift moves. The Eastern Ukraine is not strictly in Russia but is de facto Russian territory. Putin decided to threaten war and take over Ukraine if it doesn’t give up attempts to join EU and have NATO base. A NATO base is seen as a threat too near Russian border.

Treating Ukraine as a puppet of America, Putin is dealing directly with the US and NATO rather than Ukraine. Putin has said that the situation is similar to the Cuban crises of 1962.

Both US and NATO are refusing to budge citing Ukraine’s sovereign right to chose what it wants. As days go by it seems Putin may have little choice but to either backdown or invade. The west is trying to call Putin’s bluff, trying to see how far it can push Putin’s tolerance.

Sooner or later, Putin will have to chose if there is no movement on the discussions. If he deploys missiles in Cuba, that might be seen as too provocative. If he invades Ukraine it will be very costly for both countries. The economic crises that Russia will face afterwards will weaken him. If he backs down, Putin will be weakened as a political strongman in Russia. Either way, he has problems.

If Putin attacks Ukraine, Biden will face a barrage of criticism in USA from the Republicans. It will distract from the enquiry into the attempted insurrection of Capitol Hill. It will be the second country Biden administration will have failed to live up to a promise of protection (Afghanistan).

All indications are that this is leading to a war barring a last minute diplomatic breakthrough in the talks.

The Political Petri Dish

Look down a petri dish under a microscope and one will see bacteria or other organisms wandering around aimlessly from one end to another. Politics in India seems similar. With no clear agendas except caste, communalism or unachievable promises, the parties have little to differentiate between themselves.

So politicians often see parties as career ladders rather than organisations of conviction and loyalty. So it is in UP. A number of BJP MLAs have defected to Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party. They say that BJP is only interested in working for the big corporate houses and not representing the backward castes or the poor. The BJP in turn is trying hard to woo the backward castes.

So like a petri dish culture, the politicians are crossing from one side to another. So far Dara Singh Chauhan, Swami Prasad Muarya and Dharam Singh Saini and a few others have crossed over from Adityanath’s BJP to Akhilesh’s SP. Dara Singh was in Adityanath’s cabinet.

Soon no one will know which party any candidate is in and what he or she stands for until the morning of the upcoming elections. At least that day the election commission forbids any statements so no point in political promiscuity on election day.

Who Will Win Punjab?

Past record shows that the outcome of the Municipal Corporation elections in Chandigarh, the joint capital of Punjab, has no impact on the Assembly elections which follow a little later in the state.

This time, however, there is an important takeaway from the Corporation elections held a couple of months before the Assembly elections in Punjab. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) emerged as the largest party for the first time in any elections outside Delhi. The party, which is making a determined attempt to wrest power in Punjab, has received a major boost with its cadres gaining confidence that it can win elections outside the national capital.

Another important factor in the Corporation elections was the multiplicity of contests. Besides the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, the Congress, the AAP, the Shiromani Akali Dal, a large number of independents in the fray had made it a multi-cornered contest with comparatively small number of electors in each ward. In at least five wards the margin of victory was only in double digits.

The coming elections in Punjab too are set to be multi-cornered contests with the emergence of the alliance between Capt Amarinder Singh and BJP, the SAD-BSP alliance, the Congress, the AAP and now also the Kisan Samaj Morcha formed by farmers’ organisations, besides the independents. The current possibility of five-cornered contests would definitely leave the field wide open with various parties eating into each other’s vote banks and making the task of predicting the outcome a near impossibility.

It is in this context that an analysis of the past electoral trends would be significant and relevant to the ensuing elections.

For over three decades, the state had witnessed a straight contest between the SAD and the Congress. This changed last time when the AAP entered the fray and changed the political equations. Several electoral surveys had predicted an AAP victory given the disenchantment with the other two political parties.

The Congress emerged victorious with a thumping majority of 77 seats out of a total of 117 at stake thanks to a large extent to the division of votes in the three-cornered contest. SAD won 15 seats (besides three by its alliance partner BJP) against the tally of 20 for the AAP and two for its alliance partner. But what’s significant is that the SAD finished second in no less than 43 seats while AAP finished second only in 26 seats. Akalis got lesser number of seats than AAP but received more votes.

ALSO READ: Farm Laws – Winners, Losers And The Future

SAD got 25.3 per cent of the total votes polled as against AAP’s 23.8 per cent. Add to that the 5.4 per cent votes polled by the then SAD’s alliance partner, the BJP. They together polled 37 per cent votes against 38.5 per cent by Congress. Akalis contested on 94 seats compared to 112 by AAP and still got 1.5 per cent higher vote share than AAP. Same is true for Congress. Both in 2007 and 2012 when it lost elections to the SAD-BJP combine, Congress posted a vote share of over 40 per cent.

It is in this context that the pre-poll scenario needs to be analysed with five-cornered contests on the anvil. The ruling Congress, which rocked its own boat by changing the chief minister just six months before the elections, is facing an internal crisis. Its unpredictable state party chief Navjot Singh Sidhu continues to take pot-shots at the party’s own government and chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi.

In the given short time the new chief minister is coming out with a flurry of announcements which lack credibility while some of the sitting legislators are quitting the party anticipating denial of tickets. Even as the 56-member election committee supposed to send its recommendations to the party high command for final selection of candidates is yet to meet, Sidhu has been declaring candidates for some of the seats. The party is also yet to develop a strategy for the elections.

SAD, which had quit the coalition with BJP over the farm laws, has tied up with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) whose vote share has been less than two per cent even though one third of the state’s voters belong to the Dalit Samaj. However, Akalis are by far the first movers.

Party chief Sukhbir Singh Badal has been actively leading the party and besides the alliance with the BSP, has already declared candidates for the ensuing elections. It is also attempting to woo back its core constituency of rural votes by touting that it has quit the coalition and power to stand behind the farmers. The party is not facing any major hostility from farmers now and its fate would depend on how rural voters view its role in the aftermath of the farm laws which were subsequently withdrawn.

AAP, which had built up a strong cadre before the last elections, lost some ground with several leaders quitting the party and the state unit of the party remaining disoriented over the last four years. It has received a fillip after the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation elections but continues to remain under the direct charge of its central leaders. It’s biggest failing has been a lack of a credible chief ministerial face. With just over a month left for the elections, the party chief Arvind Kejriwal has decided to maintain silence over the issue although he has declared that the candidate would be a Sikh from Punjab. This effectively ruled himself out of the race as was being apprehended last time.

The new entrant to the political scenario, the Kisan Samaj Party, might turn out to be the X factor in the coming elections. About 22 of the farmers organisations have joined hands to form the party but at least 10 others have decided to stay away. On its own, the new party is unlikely to make a serious dent but it can change the calculations if it decides to tie up with one of the major parties. And if it happens with AAP, which has a strong presence in urban areas, it would be a strong alliance to be reckoned with.

Even as the model code of conduct is to come into force any day now and schedule is to be announced for elections next month, the political situation remains fluid with new alignments in the making and finalisation of party tickets setting the tone for the elections.

Happy To Have Defeated This Arrogant Govt, Say Departing Farmers

As farmer leaders suspend their protest against Central Agriculture Laws that were rolled back by the Narendra Modi government, LokMarg team speaks to the protesters who had been camping at various border points of Delhi for over a year.

Most of the farmers say while the rollback has not come in a day too late, they are happy to bring an arrogant NDA government to its knees by their persistence and support from India and across the world.

Watch the full video here

‘Films To Farms, It Has Been A Strong Learning Curve’

Monica Gill (32), an American model, actress and beauty pageant title holder left her flourishing career in glamour world to support Punjab farmers protesting against central laws

I started off my career in modelling at a very young age. I took a break during college years and after that I re-joined pageantry. I won Miss India Massachusetts, Miss India USA in 2013, and Miss India Worldwide 2014 after which I was picked up by Tips Industries to do Punjabi films.

I did Ambarsariya opposite Diljit Dosanjh, Kaptaan with Gippy Grewal. I made my Hindi film debut with the film Firangi. I then did Sat Shri Akaal England with Ammy Virk. My second Hindi film was a J P Dutta movie titled Paltan opposite Harshvardhan Rane. My last Punjabi film was Punjabi-language period drama Yaara Ve in 2019.

It was on the spur of an emotional moment that I decided to drop behind tinsel world and took up the cause of Punjab farmers battling against implementation of new Agri Laws. The single most important thing that led me to this decision was my grandma and her reaction. The farmers’ protests started in June in Punjab and was going on for a while before the farmers moved to Delhi and pitched makeshift tents on various state borders.

When in November they moved from Punjab through Haryana towards Delhi, they faced unprecedented police and paramilitary brutality. Such was the intensity of police force that for my grandma it brought forth deep traumas within her from 1947, and from 1984, when Sikhs had faced largescale massacres. I knew that we had to win this battle for her; for those traumas heal. Otherwise she was going to die with this burden: “Is this world safe for my grandchildren?”

Once active in the glamour industry, Gill has found fulfilment in the field of human rights

I wanted her to know that this isn’t the same world that it was in 1947 or in 1984. This world is a better place. Yes, as Sikhs we are minorities but we are not helpless. We have people in so many powerful positions across the world that we can make a difference, and that is exactly what happened and I am grateful for that.

Leaving behind camera flashbulbs, I joined the Sikh Human Rights Group, an NGO with special consultative status at the UN. It has been a strong learning curve. I struggle at times because I am not an academic. I am not someone who come from a different background but my boss is quite patient with me and for that I am grateful. I have found a sense of peace working in the field of Human Rights. It is extremely fulfilling.

ALSO READ: Farm Laws – Winners, Losers and Future

I consider myself lucky to have found this organisation which was willing to take me and give me a chance to learn and give me an opportunity to fight for my community. My family was supportive of me in making this career switch and I hope to stay in this field for a while.

My mantra in life is: your voice matters, you matter. If it wasn’t for the diaspora and the youth waking up, the voice of the Indian farmers wouldn’t have gone as loud as it did. One of my friends says that there is a Pakistan Punjab and there is an India Punjab but there is a third Punjab that lives throughout the world. And when Punjab is in turmoil that third Punjab rises up. And that voice cannot be shut down.

That is what the Indian government didn’t understand. That third Punjab stood up and it was beautiful to see. So to all the youngsters reading this I just want to say: You matter, your voice matters. Rise up, speak up and create chaos.

‘Farmers Have Won, But Vested Interests Want Protest To Go On’

Gurpreet Wasi, a protester against Farm Laws, says the groundswell against BJP in Uttar Pradesh ahead of elections scared Modi

It serves many people in many ways to keep the farmers’ protest alive. The last in line for anyone’s consideration is the small farmer. Drawing room activists say, ‘Farmers should not go back. They should continue protesting. Modi may be lying.’ My question is: How many of you, since January 2021, have shown the gall to visit the sites. All the selfies at the protest bandwagon disappeared after the Red Fort fiasco. It only serves their Left-leaning heart that these poor souls keep lying in the bitter cold so that they can say “Ohh! That monster Modi.”

The announcement of farm laws rollback came as a blessing. Everyone’s spirit was wearing out. They would ask: why doesn’t anyone care? It was harvest time, all the younger people had gone back to Punjab. It was very difficult to persuade people who had gone back to return to protest sites. Because they see nothing happening. There was no public support, the NGOs and langars were kind of waning.

The government started the whole vindictive thing of arresting people who were supporting the farmer protest, they started stopping the funding, punishing people who were the backbone of the protest etc.

And there was so much infighting. What I unfortunately was seeing was that how the movement was going to end, probably another few months and this year a very harsh winter is expected. So I wasn’t too sure what was going to happen.

ALSO READ: ‘Rollback For Political Reasons, Not Change Of Heart’

I think the Modi camp misread the situation, the kind of international backlash, the kind of bad PR and what is happening in Uttar Pradesh scared them. This move of withdrawing the laws is I think the suggestion of Capt Amarinder in Punjab. He is bitten by the rejection from Congress. He also knows that Punjab is very emotional about GuruPurab, especially Guru Nanak’s birthday is probably the most important day in all our lives so he knew how to swing the emotion for Modi.

It seems like it’s a Punjab farmers’ victory, in the sense that their honours have been restored. What have they not been called: from terrorists to anti-nationals to murderers…? So it is the restoration of honour for a Punjabi farmer.

But the real reason is the UP elections. There is a larger agenda in place with the BJP going all out (taking back the laws) to win upcoming elections. UP is very very important. The Lakhimpur incident turned the tide against BJP in UP. Although the media isn’t covering it but Tikait is going from village to village and panchayat after panchayat is telling villagers not to vote for BJP. The opposition too has put its forces unitedly behind farmers. I think that scared Modi.

But at the end of the day, innocent people who have been used by everybody including all political parties, for their political gain. For the small farmer sitting there, the older people – this exit is just necessary. They have made a point which I think is the biggest point made ever since Independence and I do not think anything else is needed. I think whatever they set out to do at that point is being driven home but now we must let them go.

As Told To Mamta Sharma

‘Farm Laws Abolished Due To Political Compulsion, Not Change Of Heart’

Sukhbir Singh, 55, a son of soil from Sangrur, Punjab says abolishment of Central Farm Laws is nonetheless a tribute to the indomitable spirit of Punjab farmers

Words cannot describe my happiness about the repealing of the Farm Laws. Our mehnat, our struggle and our belief has borne fruit and on what a beautiful day: Guru Nanak Jayanti. Maybe the day was symbolically chosen by the BJP government to call truce, but victory nevertheless tasted sweeter on Gurpurab day. I was literally jumping with joy when the news was flashed on TV screens that the Farm Laws bad been rolled back by Prime Minister Modi.

I wouldn’t say it is a change of heart that brought about the roll back, but rather out of political compulsion: as a step to save the vote banks or not antagonise other voters during the forthcoming Punjab and Uttar Pradesh elections. Yet, no matter what the reason, finally seems like the government has come to its senses.

Born into a family of farmers, and having literally grown up on farms, I know how we deal with challenges year after year. It has been an uphill task to manage the different hardships from reducing ground water table, struggling to get right prices for non-staple crops in the absence of minimum support price, rising unpaid loans during a bad season to many other things. The repealing of Farm Laws is therefore just the first step; the government needs to walk a long road with the farmers if it truly wants to support them. Authentic and honest dialogue is important between the government and the farmers.

Singh (in his 20s and now at 55) says having grown up on farms, he knows Central laws are not beneficial to farmers

Hamari ekta, hamara sangharsh karne ka jazba, hamari sach ka sath dene ki takat, in sab cheezon ne hi humein aaj jeet dilayi hai aur aage bhi dilayegi (Our unity, our indomitable spirit, and our courage to always stand by the truth has got us this victory today and will yield greater results in the future too).

I am proud of all my farmer brothers and sisters from other parts of the country, but I am especially proud of us Sikhs. We give everything we had to the purpose at hand fearlessly. Guru Nanak Dev Ji and the successive Gurus have taught us to believe in both ourselves and a cause that moves us. Many people think that farmers have been unreasonable in not budging an inch, but the entry of corporates into farming would have meant an increase in price of almost all eatables. Perhaps then those people would have understood. We are people of the soil and we know what we are doing.

The government should understand that the voter in a democracy has a lot of power and Indian democracy is a robust one. We took everything in our stride during the year-long protests and finally the government had to bend. The government needs to understand that it is serving the people and needs to understand their fears and concerns and maybe suggestions too before bringing in new laws that affect huge sections of people.

‘People Will Draw Strength From Farmers’ Resolve & Victory’

Dr Sumit Kaur, who was part of a free medical facility for protesters at Tikri border, says farmers’ resolve made Prime Minister Modi see reason

This is such a huge victory for the farmers that the Centre has accepted their demands and announced it will repeal the three controversial Farm Laws. But we are not done yet. Even though this is a milestone in the farmer’s protest, we have a longer road to tread. For, the protest was not only about the Farm Laws being taken back, but also about the need for the government to look into important matters ailing the agricultural sector like MSP guarantee, farmers’ suicide, farm loan waivers etc.

I hope the Prime Minister has finally understood that leadership does not mean imposing arbitrary laws, but taking into consideration all the stakeholders involved. The farmers’ undying spirit, especially those of Sikh farmers, has made Modiji see reason. Hope he understands the importance of dialogue.

Kaur with her teammates who set up a medical langar for protesting farmers

Perhaps others will draw strength from the victory of farmers and will stand beside the issues they believe in. I am feeling overwhelmed and equally proud at this victory. The international support is of no less importance. Support for the farmers poured in from everywhere and no matter what names we were called or whatever was thrown our way, we didn’t give up and we didn’t lose sight of our aim: better life for our farmers.

We braved everything from extreme cold and pollution last year, to fear of catching Covid among large gatherings and crowds, lack of basic amenities and everything else in between. But in the end we did manage to make the current government see reason. Our conviction has paid. Democracy has prevailed.

Perhaps other leaders should take note from Rakesh Tikait on how to lead. Tikait Sahab ne protests me nai jaan phoonk di (Tikait breathed life into the protest). He said that he wouldn’t go home unless the Farm Laws were repealed and he stood by his word. That’s how leaders should be, with one ear always on the ground as to what the janta wants. No doubt farmers from Punjab have been the most vocal during the protests. We always stand by what is right and what is beneficial for everyone involved.

Kaur at the protest site and her makeshift camp

I am currently in Punjab, but I so want to be with my friends at the protest site at the Delhi borders right now. It takes your joy to a whole new level, when you can share it with those who have undertaken the journey with you. Here’s hoping this is the start of a beautiful journey for the agricultural sector. I salute the farmers, the protesters and the independent media alike.

As Told To Yog Maya Singh