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Tension at Farmers’ Protests: Are Local People Really ‘Inconvenienced’?

“No one likes to stage such long protests away from home, they are aggrieved that is why they are sitting here. The government should listen to the farmers,” Sunil, who runs a shop near the protest site Tikri border, said.
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New Delhi: On January 29, small groups of supposed ‘local residents’ reached the farmers’ protest sites at Singhu and Tikri borders demanding that the roads should be cleared. They alleged that the blockage is causing them ‘inconvenience’. They were also angry about the supposed ‘insult’ of the national flag during the tractor rally on Republic Day at Red Fort. While at Singhu border, there was stone pelting by ‘goons’, at Tikri border, a group of 50-60 people showed up and created a ruckus.

While a new narrative of local people being inconvenienced by the protests is being shaped, NewsClick approached the shopkeepers and residents of Haridas Nagar at the Tikri border, all of whom rubbished the claims of ‘inconvenience’.

Sunil, who has been running a ready-made garments’ shop in the area since the last four years defended the ongoing farmers’ protest saying, “No one likes to stage such long protests away from home, they are aggrieved that is why they are sitting here. The government should listen to the farmers.”

Vicky, a resident of Haridas Nagar, emphasised on the fact that those who came demanding the blockade to be cleared were “brought in from other areas by local BJP people as they couldn’t gather support amongst the local residents for this task”. He added that, “An hour before the group showed up, some residents of Tikri went on the stage put up at the protest site and informed the protesters that this is happening. But, the farmers should not worry because all the residents are with them.” When asked what he thought about the farmers’ demands he agreed that ‘giving freehand to stock essential commodities is not good for anyone’.

Also read: Farm Laws: Singhu Border Tense after ‘Goons’ Attack Protesting Farmers

Sanjay, who runs a general store just a few metres from the protest site, said he has faced no trouble from the protesting farmers. “They come to my shop and buy things. They also need the daily use items. They have been sitting here for two months and I have never faced any problem from them.”

Apart from the ‘inconvenience’ claim, the group demanding ending the protests at Tikri had also alleged that some protesters have misbehaved with the women of the area. However, Baby Devi, who sells items used in religious rituals along with her family, rebutted the claim saying, “These farmers are nice people. Whenever they come to my shop, they call me ‘sister’ or ‘beti’ if they are older than me. They have never misbehaved with me.”

Rajkumar, Baby Devi’s husband, said that their troubles are not because of the protesting farmers but the police. He complained that the police has blocked the roads, due to which he is facing problem in getting supplies for his shop as no vehicle can enter the area.

Another resident of Haridas Nagar, Ravi, a postgraduate from University of Delhi, explained the flaws in the new farm laws. Talking about corporate farming, he said that it will make the farmers vulnerable to big corporates because they have all the resources. “The corporate (company) will come with a 150 pages long agreement and get the farmer to sign it. How will the farmer know what is written in that? Then the corporates can do as they like.”

He also expressed his doubts that the people showing up at the protest sites, demanding them being cleared out, is not ‘spontaneous’ because they had printed placards which can’t be arranged on ‘short notice’.

A sweetshop owner from Tikri, who requested anonymity, said, “The protest has affected my business, but that is expected in such a massive protest.”

Also read: Far From Delhi in the Hinterlands of Haryana, Pressure Mounts Over Protesting Farmers

The situation has been tense on all protests sites at the borders of the national capital following the incidents on January 26, which the Samyukt Kisan Morch—an umbrella body leading the farmers’ protests—claims are part of planned efforts to discredit their peaceful protest. Since the beginning of these sit-ins at various borders of Delhi, farmers have garnered support from various sections across the country.

However, there have been repeated attempts to discredit the protests by terming the protesters as Khalistanis, terrorists, ‘mislead farmers’; some even claiming that those sitting at the protests “aren’t farmers”. Meanwhile, the Centre, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party – which enacted the farm laws despite agriculture being a state subject – has failed to offer an acceptable solution to the farmer leaders despite a series of talks. In the last meeting, the government after offering to suspend the laws for a year and a half, said that it was the best they could do and they have nothing else to offer.

All this while, the support for the farmers’ movement is only increasing, leading to the government’s adamant stance becoming an embarrassment for it. Further, the massive success of the historic tractor parade on Republic Day is another testimony that all such attempts to discredit the movement have failed miserably.

While the tension continues to prevail at Tikri, the farmers are not in despair. One of the protesters said, “The real movement has begun now, until now it was like a mela. This is the real test. We will win.” Another insisted, “Resistance is like a spring, the more they oppress it, it will bounce back with more force!”

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