In addition to the planned Tractor Rally in Delhi on Republic Day, farmers will also be holding rallies in different states across the country on January 26 in solidarity with those who have been protesting against the Farm Laws at five border points outside Delhi for 61 days now.
Tractor rallies, marches, dharnas and street-corner meetings are set to take place in different states, including Bihar, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Haryana, Punjab, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Preparations are on in full swing, with farmers still pouring in to the protest sites near Delhi.
Preparations for Republic Day parade at Delhi’s north-western Singhu Border remained in full swing with at least a lakh tractors camping on a 20 kilometre stretch spread across National Highway 44. An incessant stream of protesters kept pouring in at the border with rousing slogans and flags of their unions and the national flag held high.
Sukhdeep Singh, the sarpanch of Sarna in Fatehgarh Sahib, said that the parade will be a befitting reply to the people who have been questioning their credentials by labelling them ‘Khalistani Extremists’ and ‘Terrorists’. “This is the first time when the farmers’ tractors will run on the roads of the national capital roads. We are Indians but the government has been treating us otherwise. It should look at our situation. Please repeal the laws. It’s in everyone’s interest.”
Harjit Singh, who came alongside farmers from Amritsar said that his contingent included 150 tractors. “I came here to join the protest three days ago. It’s a pan-India protest where farmers from Uttarkaand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and even the southern states have come to express their angst against the Farm Laws. As far as the future of this movement is concerned, we are resolute that we will not return until the laws are repealed. It does not matter how much time will it take,” he added.
Away from Singh’s Jeep, Balkar Singh stood tall on his tableau which showcased a library on a trolley and linked to a JCB. “I returned to my village in Sri Anantapur Sahib after burning the black laws on Lohri. We held rallies in nearby villages everyday to mobilise people for the march. As far as my district is concerned, at least 4,000 tractors have arrived so far. I have also been informed that 7,000 tractors have come from the neighbouring district of Gurdaspur,” he said.
The rally will begin at 10 am and the tractors will move in the same order as they have been camped at the protest site.
Taking stock of the preparations, Major Singh Punnawal, secretary, All India Kisan Sabha Punjab, said the march will be a moral victory for farmers. “The Delhi Police, which has been insistent on not allowing farmers’ entry to the national capital gave in to our demands. It will be now facilitating us throughout the parade. It will be a historic parade,” he said.
Kavitha Kuruganti from Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture, the only female member of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, said marches will also happen in state capitals in south Indian states. “I have been informed that two different marches will be taken out in Belgaum and Bengaluru, where thousands of farmers will be out on the streets to press for their demands. Similar marches have been planned in Kerala, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. So, I think the message is loud and clear for the government: repeal the laws.”
The number of tractors at the Tikri Border is so huge that it may take over two days for every vehicle to pass the same point; they then have to return too. The final route of tomorrow’s tractor parade from the Tikri Border remains undecided, as one prominent Punjab union raised issues with the plan agreed upon by the Delhi Police and the Samyukt Kisan Morch (SKM), the umbrella body that is spearheading the agitation.
“The leaders of the Morcha did a good job with the plan. However, it will be difficult to continue with the same, particularly from Tikri Border, since the number of tractors arriving here is very high,” Jasvinder Singh Longowal, state secretary, BKU (Ekta Ugrahan), told NewsClick on Monday. The route planned for the Tikri Border is about 70 kms, covering Nangloi, Baprola Village, Najafgarh, Jharoda Border, Rohtak Bypass, and Asoda.
According to Singh, tractors – whose “total count is impossible to arrive at” – will join the protest tomorrow at Tikri. “It will take more than 48 hours for all of them to complete the parade, given the present route,” he said. A meeting with the Delhi Police is expected to result in an alternate solution.
Avtar Singh, from Patiala, of the same union, said that given the size of the protest at the Tikri Border, the police must plan a route which is at least of 120 kms long and one that accommodates tractors on two lanes instead of one. “Thus union leaders will also be stressing that the Delhi police allow the parade on the Outer Ring Road – as envisioned earlier,” he said.
Singh said that that 40 ambulances are getting ready for Tuesday, which will participate along with the tractors and in the rally. “Many of the tractors are going to reach tonight; the total number of ambulances will be decided accordingly. It can go up to 100,” he said.
The rush of tractors, which continued during the day with farmers coming in from Haryana and Punjab, also led to a traffic jam at the Pakora Chowk in Haryana’s Bahadurgarh, near the protest site. Some are expected to stay back to guard the protest areas as well.
“All the tractors in the parade tomorrow will carry three flags – the national flag, their union’s and one of the Khalsa. The tiranga will be at the top,” one of the protesters said. The men will be joined by women, some of whom have taken driving classes over the past few weeks to participate in the rally tomorrow. Rajbinder Kaur, 35, from Patiala, said that the “women will be at the forefront tomorrow and will show the Modi government the strength of the farming families.”
Kaur has been camping at the Tikri Border since the first week of December alongside her entire family of about 14 members.
The farmers from Punjab will be joined by those from Haryana, with protesters from other states also seen making preparations. A 300-member group of farmers from Chhattisgarh, under the banner of the Kisan Union Sangh will join the rally tomorrow. Forty-two-year-old Vijay Bhardwaj from the group told NewsClick that its members are also crafting a tableau on a trolley for tomorrow. “It will showcase the farming culture of Chhattisgarh,” he said.
Similarly, members of the Bihar-based Grameen Mazdoor Union will also join the rally tomorrow. Ajay Bhonsle, 23, from the NAPM was carrying a burning mashal that he says a group of five – of which he is part – has been “carrying and running in a relay manner from Pune for 14 days.”
“We will be carrying the mashal tomorrow in the parade,” he added, saying that it was symbolic of the fire burning inside “every farmer in the country.”
With preparations for the rally on Tuesday almost over, the farmers here were ready for the parade with thousands of tractors in place. While there may be a lesser number of tractors here, farmers from about 25 states – Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Bihar, Meghalaya, Kashmir and many other states – are ready with their special tableaus.
Smita Deshmukh, a farmer who has come from Maharashtra, was preparing a tractor for the parade. Speaking to NewsClick, she said that they would show the colours of Maharashtra in the parade. “Our great Maharashtrian thinkers and social innovators like Shivaji, Ambedkar and Savitri Bai Phule will showcase what Maharashtra and its tribal society is all about,” she said, adding that the Modi government had “forced us farmers to fight on the road.”
Farmers from other states were also preparing tableaus of their respective states. CPI(M) MP K.K. Ragesh, who has come here with farmers from Kerala, said that the “laws that this government has enacted will make the farmers slaves of the capitalists. This struggle is against that slavery.”
Leader of Rajasthan Kisan Sabha and former MLA, Pawan Duggal, said that Shahjahanpur Border had become a mini-Hindustan. He said that their parade will showcase the martyrdom of the farmers that had died during the struggle. He described the march as historic and said that for the first time since Independence, farmers will be parading in and around Delhi.
Seema Jain, a farmer from Rajasthan, said that it was not only about the farmers but that the struggle was for everyone.
The first batch of tractors will take off from the Singhu Border and enter Delhi. From there it will reach Bawana-Kanjhawala road from Sanjay Gandhi Transport Nagar and will return to the Singhu Border via Kharkhoda Chandi.
A large number of farmers from Punjab and Haryana are here. The second batch of farmers from Punjab and Haryana will arrive at Delhi from the Tikri Border and will return to Tikri via Nangloi-Najafgarh-Badli-Dasna. The third batch will enter Delhi from the Ghazipur border and Apsara border from Anand Vihar-Mohan Nagar-Ghaziabad-Dasna and will return to Ghazipur. This batch reached Delhi on November 28. Although it did not have large numbers initially, thousands of farmers are here now. A large number of farmers have arrived here from Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and even Odisha and Madhya Pradesh.
According to the farmers, the fourth batch will move from Shahjahanpur border in Haryana-Rajasthan to Masani Dam where another batch of farmers will move to the Western Peripheral Expressway. KMP. The fifth and final batch, which will come from Palwal in Haryana, will join the march at the Ghazipur Border.
Organisations from across the country, about 450 to 500 in all, are at Haryana’s borders. At Palwal, about 15 to 20 organisations – All India Kisan Sabha, Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh, factions of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, farmer organisations from Mewat Kosi, Hodal, Mathura, the Paralkot Kisan Sangathan Bastar and Bundelkhand Kisan Sangh – will take part in the rally on Tuesday.
A farmers organisation from Bastar – Paralkot Kisan Sangathan Bastar – arrived at Palwal on Sunday, as did the Kisan Kalyan Sangathan after a 1,360 kms journey from West Bengal.
A tableau (jhanki) of 29 states with the crops grown in each, has been prepared at the Palwal Border.
Farmers from Odisha, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, UP and those from MP, the first at the site, are at the border. Between five to ten thousand farmers are also joining on a daily basis.
About 25,000 to 30,000 people expected to join in the rally tomorrow as will 1000 tractors, with the numbers expected to increase.
Badal Saroj, joint secretary of the AIKS, said that all the active tractors will be on the roads tomorrow. “This kind of protest by the farmers – in such large numbers – will be the first of its kind anywhere in the world. We have not seen such an insensitive government, one that does not listen and has chosen to remain mum on the deaths of more than 150 farmers who have been protesting peacefully for the past 60 days,” she said.
Rural Bihar is set to witness tractor rallies, protest marches, dharnas and street-corner meetings on January 26 demanding the repeal of the three Farm Laws.
CPI (ML) state secretary Kunal said the party and the Akhil Bhartiya Kisan Mahasabha will conduct tractor marches in rural areas of the state. “Preparations for the tractor march in Arwal, East Champaran, Araria, Masaurhi, Begusarai and Buxar districts, including Paliganj in Patna, are underway,” he added.
He said that thousands of people, including party leaders, workers, supporters and sympathisers in rural areas will stage protests in support of protesting farmers near Delhi borders.
The opposition Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance) – including Left parties – in Bihar have started campaigning at the grassroots level to garner support for the call to form a human chain on January 30 in support of the farmers.
The party will also take out a candle-light march (mashal julus) this evening in all district headquarters and the block level to mobilise people for a human-chain protest on January 30.
CPI (M) leader Awadesh Kumar said the party will organise dharnas and meetings in rural areas of Bihar on January 26 to garner support against the three laws and to mobilise farmers for the human chain. He said the farmers, under the banner of the party, have been staging protests in different districts and blocks over the past several days. However, the protests intended for Tuesday will be on a much larger scale, they said.
Thousands of tractors will be out on the roads of Burdwan – between Nababhat to Ullas area – near Burdwan town in protest against the Farm Laws. Each tractor will have a man and woman farmer with the Tricolour in one hand and the red flag in the other.
Participants will be honoured by different workers organisations – insurance workers to railways workers – along the way.
Preparations are on in full swing for what is expected to be a historic parade. The centre of the protests in Burdwan will be Memari, from where thousands of tractors will be joining the rally. Aside from Burdwan district, preparations for tractor rallies are on in Krishnanagar in Nadia district. In the city of Bongaon in North 24 Parganas and Bhangar in South 24 Parganas power tillers and tractors will join the kisan parade.
The rally in Murshidabad district will have tractors and colourful flags and one will take place in Birbhum district too. In north and south Dinajpur, which have had terror threats, kisan parades will be organised. In other districts, which do not have a sizeable tractor population, motorcycle rallies will take place, according to farmer leaders in West Bengal.
Andhra Pradesh and Telangana:
Farmers will be participating in tractor and vehicle rallies in all district headquarters on January 26 in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. For the last sixty days, farmers organisations in the Telugu states have been protesting, demanding the scrapping of the new Farm Laws.
As the state police denied permission for the tractor parade in Hyderabad, farmers’ organisations have approached the High Court seeking permission for the parade.
“On January 26, 25 separate tractor and vehicle rallies will be held across 13 districts in Andhra Pradesh. The farmers will be joined by organised and unorganised workers, students and Anganwadi workers. The farmers have already organised massive rallies in Guntur, Vijayawada, Ongole, Prakasam and Srikakulam,” said Y. Kesav Rao of Andhra Pradesh Rythu Sangham.
On Monday, farmers organisations campaigned across villages asking farming communities to join Tuesday’s protest.
Andhra Pradesh Rythu Sangham, Agriculture Workers Union and the CPI(M) have formed 250 teams and are collecting funds for supporting the farmers’ protest in Delhi. “Street vendors, small traders, construction workers are with the farmers. We have planned to collect funds from at least one lakh families to support the farmers’ movement in Delhi,” said V. Venkateshwarlu, state secretary of the Agriculture Workers’ Union.
In Telangana, trade unions and farmers organisations jointly held the ‘Karmika Karshaka Rythu Yatra’ covering all districts in the state. A team of the Telangana Rythu Sangham is travelling across the state covering villages and informing people about their problems with the new laws. “Farmers are strongly opposing the corporatisation of agriculture,” said T. Sagar, general secretary of the Telangana Rythu Sangham.
Opposition political parties, including Congress, Telangana Jana Samithi and Left parties, have said they will be supporting the farmers’ parade. A team of farmers from Telangana Raitanga Samithi have left for Delhi to participate in the farmers’ parade there.
“In Andhra Pradesh, the ruling YSRCP and the opposition Telugu Desam Party are trying to ignore the farmers’ protests. But the farmers’ ire against the laws can be witnessed across the state,” said Kesav Rao.
With inputs by Mohd. Imran Khan, Shinzani Jain, Sandip Chakraborty, Prudhviraj Rupawat, Ronak Chhabra, Mukund Jha and Ravi Kaushal