Hansi/Haryana: Anecdotes of sacrifices made by people in what was termed as India’s ‘First War of Independence’ in 1857 are known all too well across the region around Haryana’s Hansi city. The British government had crushed over 100 persons under a road roller here as punishment for participating in the ‘sepoy mutiny’. The historic road, known as Lal Sadak or Red Street, signifying the blood of those killed, bears testimony to the struggle of the people.
On Thursday afternoon, it was here that thumping drumbeats and raucous vocals galvanised the crowd and set the mood for what is coming to be the next phase for the ongoing farmers’ movement against the three farm laws brought in by the Narendra Modi government.
Right next to the memorial to the martyrs of 1857, the place was teeming with farmers and workers. They were assembled under the aegis of Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella of around 40 farmer unions, and Haryana’s worker groups to set out for a “padyatra” (foot march) highlighting their demands.
The march – there will be a series of them -- will also begin from Haryana’s Jind, Uttar Pradesh’s Mathura and Punjab’s Khatkar Kalan, and will culminate at the border protest sites in Delhi on March 23, the martyrdom day of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev.
Notably, Khatkar Kalan is also the birthplace of the revolutionary freedom fighter Bhagat Singh, from where farmers will march on Friday.
At Hansi’s Lal Sadak, as the march began on Thursday, if the “common enemy” were the corporate houses, a binding factor was the fear of being at the receiving end of the “draconian” policies of the Modi-led Central government.
As such, a common refrain among the protesters was: that the Centre’s idea of ‘development’ is “anti-people”, and must be protested tooth and nail.
Said Saroj Kumari, a resident of Hisar district, who is in her 40s: “The Modi government is selling everything - almost all the PSUs (public sector units) - thereby jeopardising the livelihood of everyone.”
Kumari, who’s an advocate by profession, said: “Do we need more reason to join the farmers’ movement and turn it into a people’s movement?”
Likewise, Ishwar of Rohnat village claimed that if the Modi government doesn’t pay heed to those “who elected them in the first place”, there would be a “revolt”.
“Just like the martyrs of 1857, we also won’t shy away from sacrificing our lives, if it comes to that,” said the 47-year-old.
According to estimates, nearly 300 protesting farmers have already died due to varied reasons, ever since farmers started camping at the outskirts of Delhi in November last year.
Among the leaders who were present on Thursday in Hisar were mainly those belonging to the sister organisations of All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), a constituent of SKM, along with Gurjeet Kaur, niece of martyr Bhagat Singh.
Ashok Dhawale, president, AIKS, told NewsClick that the ‘padyatra’ will “strengthen” the farmers’ movement by engaging “more youth and workers”. “It will also play a crucial role in the preparation for the Bharat Bandh.”
SKM has called for a Bharat Bandh on March 26 - a call that has also drawn support from over 10 Central trade unions.
“The credit for the continuance of the ongoing agitation must be given to the people - it is they who are sitting at Delhi’s borders, braving winter, rain and now summer,” said Gurjeet Kaur. She warned the Modi government of an “uprising” if it doesn’t resolve the issues at the earliest.
Vikram Singh of All India Agricultural Workers Union (AIAWU) said the agitation has already taken shape of a “mass movement”. “The anger against Modi government has left no district untouched in the country - even the ones that are known to be ruling Bharatiya Janata Party strongholds.”
Meanwhile, slogans paying tribute to the freedom fighters and terming the BJP-led Central government as “no different than the British government” rent the air, as the protesters marched.
The march plans to cover 20km and reach Sorkhi village near Hisar-Rohtak district border tonight.
Among the slogans that summed up the message was: “Modi Sarkar Bhagao, Desh Bachao.”