Who breathes life into the villages
Who enlivens the cities?
Who sculpts the pot of time
And who controls its passage?
Who fixes the ambrosial bowl
And who drinks the cup of poison?
Who swims the river of the Word?
And who controls its rhythm?
(Prologue of the play 'Haq')
Hon’ble Judge Sahib of the Supreme Court, while hearing the petition of the Kisan Mahapanchayat (which is not part of the ongoing morchas at the Singhu-Tikri-Ghazipur borders) seeking permission to protest against the agricultural laws enacted by the Central Government in Delhi, you addressed all the farmers and said: “You (meaning all protesting farmers) have strangulated the entire city (meaning Delhi), now you want to come inside the city!”
With due humility, I would like to state on my personal behalf and, on behalf of my fellow farmers, that we have not done any such thing. Hon’ble Judge Sahib, the blood flowing in our veins bears out that we can never have the effrontery to reach the neck of any person, city, town or settlement. We are hardworking people, we toil in the fields to grow food; we plough the land, sow the seeds, harvest the crops and bring it to the cities and villages so that the people of the land can eat well, live long and stay blessed. We are devoted to our land and it is not in our nature to do what you have said; it is neither our tradition nor our culture. Yes, the sons of farmers do lay down their lives guarding the frontiers so that your cities remain safe; you know this fact but perhaps it slipped out of your mind for the moment when you asked us this question.
Hon’ble Judge Sahib, who is strangulating the cities? Please look at the city where the country’s highest court is located and also look at Mumbai, Bengaluru Hyderabad … farmers have not choked any of these cities; these skyscrapers and concrete jungles are not the property of farmers; the speeding cars which run round the clock, emitting smoke and toxic gases, are not owned by the farmers. It is not the farmers who have strangulated the cities, it’s the concrete jungles and toxic gases which have choked the cities.
The buildings in the cities run billions of air conditioners. According to a study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1.6 billion buildings worldwide have air conditioners. The study reveals that air-conditioners use 10 per cent of our country's electricity which will become 45 per cent by 2050. Most of the electricity is generated in coal-fired thermal plants, which are heavily polluting. It is this pollution, and the unquenchable greed of the builders and the corporates and the way of life that builds on the exclusion of villages which is strangulating the cities.
Hon’ble Judge Sahib, you know better what the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) want. They want the majority of those working in agriculture to be evicted; they want farmers to become landless, unemployed, or low-wage labourers. To become a labourer is no insult but evicting farmers from their lands is not justified; it is not fair. The agricultural laws have been framed in line with the thinking of the World Bank and the IMF, the Government knows it, and so do the experts and yourself.
Hon’ble Judge Sahib, we have come to Delhi’s doorsteps to seek justice, not to strangulate the city. You said (I repeat) “You have strangulated the city, now you want to come inside the city!” Hon’ble Judge, very humbly I want to ask again, can't we come in to the city? Are we strangers or uncivilized? Are we not citizens of this country? Have we not shed blood and sweat for this land? Didn’t our forefathers sacrifice their lives in the freedom struggle?
Hon’ble Judge Sahib, now I want to say a few words on behalf of my Punjabi farmer brothers and sisters. We the Punjabis are the inheritors of the legacy of Baba Nanak, Sheikh Farid, Bulla Shah, Baba Sohan Singh Bhakna, Kartar Singh Sarabha, Madan Lal Dhingra, Saifuddin Kichlu, Dr. Satpal, Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev. Guru Arjan Dev Ji has taught us “Naa ko bairee nahee bigaana sagal sang hum kon ban aayi” (No one is our enemy and no one is a stranger).
Hon’ble Judge Sahib, I would like to ask a question here as to how the word ‘you’ came to your mind. The division between ‘us’ (meaning city dwellers) and ‘you’ (meaning the peasants) is evident in the nature of your question; it is very painful to believe that you think of us as aliens, outsiders, and strangers. We always thought of you as our own, the one who gives us justice; we had hoped that this divide of ‘us and them’ would not raise its head, at least, in your mind at least.
Delhi is our capital; the heart of our country. We came to its doorsteps with the hope that our capital would listen to us; and Hon’ble Judge Sahib, you are a witness (have seen that) that we’ve been sitting here for the last 10 months; more than 700 farmers from Punjab have been martyred here; but the Government is not listening to us. Judge Sahib, why didn’t you ask the Government to listen to us? It has been eight months since January 22, when the Government last talked to the farmers. Eight months of(the) State's silence feels like eight centuries; farmers have been sitting under the open sky. The bone-chilling nights of the harsh winters, the hot summer days and the rainstorms, our farmer brothers and sisters have endured them all. They have fallen sick; there have been deaths. History is always written on the bodies of men and women. We know how brutal and harsh(the) State's silence can be. One order of yours could have broken this silence but you did not give any such order to the Government.
You did not ask the Government why it was not talking to the farmers; why the dialogue with the farmers, whose movement has been peaceful and extremely restrained, has been broken. Why Hon’ble Judge Sahib, why? Why this discrimination? We are being accused of strangulating the city but no question is being asked of the Government, which is strangulating us?
Hon’ble Judge Sahib, you said/asked, “You want to come into the city now?” Hon’ble Judge Sahib, in the history of the capital there have been thousands of protests. In March 1919, when the agitation against the Rowlatt Act was intensifying in Punjab, Delhi stood with Punjab. There was a strike in Delhi on 30 March 1919, the army opened fire on the protesters, killing 6 and injuring 16. This was the prelude to the April 13 massacre of Jallianwala Bagh. It was in this very context that Bhagat Singh and Butkeshwar Dutt threw a bomb in the assembly in 1929, to protest against the anti-people laws (Public Safety Act and Trade Disputes Act), not to kill but to make the deaf Government hear.
… And 346 years ago (in 1675 AD) our Guru Tegh Bahadur ji and his companions were martyred fighting for truth and justice; and 305 years ago (in 1716 AD) Banda Singh Bahadur and hundreds of his companions were martyred here only and 238 years ago (in 1783 AD) the Sikh Misls (army units) led by Sardar Baghel Singh, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia and Jassa Singh Ramgarhia won the battle of Delhi; Tees Hazari, the site of local courts, takes its name from the 30,000 Sikh soldiers who conquered Delhi.
In 1947, Punjab and Delhi established another bond… of shared pain and suffering. In 1947, Punjab was partitioned, lacerated, 10 lakh Punjabis were killed, millions displaced and made homeless. Caravans of Punjabis displaced from Western Punjab arrived in Delhi. Delhi gave them shelter and hope. More than four lakh Punjabis found their destiny awaiting them in Delhi. Many of them were merchants, artisans, and(workers) working class. Enduring pain and immense sorrow, they rebuilt their lives and created a charming Delhi. Hon’ble Judge Sahib, Punjabis have also played a part in developing this city.
Let’s leave aside the past and come to the present. There have been major movements in the city in the last decade: the movement to protest the brutal rape of Nirbhaya, the anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare and many more. Millions took part in these movements; this is the element of which democracies are made off(of) and this is how it should be and, that is why we ask that, why questions are being raised about our coming to Delhi; why a new discourse against the farmers (is) being initiated, that too from your esteemed desk? Eminent jurist Earl Warren says that it is the spirit and not the form of law that keeps justice alive. The Constitution and the spirit of law are in favour of millions of farmers and farm laborers in the country. Crushing a movement seeking truth using the technicalities of law is to be disingenuous to both the Constitution and the Law. Farmers expect justice from the Supreme Court. Hon’ble Judge Sahib, they are waiting.