New Delhi: A distant voice from a loudspeaker kept emphasising that the month of April is a challenging and historic month. “It is this month when Jyotiba Phule, B R Ambedkar were born. It is in this month the tenth Guru Gobind Singh founded Khalsa Panth and waged a struggle against superstition and caste oppression. But my brothers, please remember the immense contribution of freedom fighters who were martyred on April 13, 1919 in Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar. Baishakhi connects them all.”
The young speaker summed up the essence of Baishakhi celebrations by farmers at the borders of the national capital where they have staging a protest for more than four months against the three farm laws.
Samyukta Kisan Morcha - a collective of farmers’ unions -- organised a festival at Dalal Khap Ground near Tikri Border where teams from different states competed against each other in kabbadi, volley ball and wrestling matches. The cultural teams, too showcased their traditions through dance performances. The jubilant crowd cheered every time their favourite team scored a point.
However, the harvest festival also became an event where the farmers poured their angst against the Centre’s apathy.
Manjeet Sindhu, who came from Hisar in Haryana, said they were still awaiting justice. “Yes, it’s a day for celebration for us. But, if you ask me personally, there is no reason to celebrate. A bottle of mineral bottle costs Rs 20 per litre whereas my wheat is selling at Rs 17 per kilo. Although, there is one unique thing about this event -- that Baisakhi is not limited to the harvesting season alone. It is also the day when Guru Gobind Singh founded the Khalsa Panth on April 13, 1699.
Tuesday’s event was organised by Dalal Khap, which constitute of 99% Hindus. It was an event that exhibited the unity of people from all religion, who celebrated the day with fervour!”
Joginder Nain from Bharatiya Kisan Union (Nain) told NewsClick: “When we decided that people from Haryana and Punjab will showcase their folk arts, dances and instruments, the idea was to show the diversity in the states of Haryana and Punjab. Our Sikh brothers will show their Bhangda and Giddha dances. The people from the snake charmers community in Haryana will showcase their art where they mix the tunes from the Been with the Dhol. Similarly, we have other matches lined up in the sports category too.”
Jagmati Sangwan, a prominent women’s activist and a Bhim Awardee volleyball player, said the fmovement had strengthened the communitarian feeling among farmers who now consider each other as members of an extended family.
“I think this event is the culmination of energy that our players, folk singers, dancers and ordinary people are putting into the movement. This will beget a new determination to fight this unjust regime, which is finding new avenues for creating a rift among people on caste and communal lines,” she said.
Sangwan was referring to the proposed programmes by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders for celebrating B R Ambedkar’s birthday on April 14. Farmer leaders feel that through these programmes, BJP is conducting itself on old lines when it pitted the Jat community against 35 other communities constituting the basic fabric of society in Haryana.
Thousands of members of dalit bahujans will reach the borders of Delhi on Ambedkar Jayanti. The Samyukta Kisan Morcha had asked the farmers to celebrate the day as ‘Save Constitution Day’ in which many social workers and prominent leaders who are fighting for social justice will be joining the protest and will address the farmers.
Farmer leaders said the provisions of the Indian Constitution which troubled the present dispensation have been done away with. Similarly, draconian laws like Article 126 A, commonly known as sedition laws, have been slapped against activists to silence them.