New Delhi: A majority of tents where farmers were camping in protest against three Central farm laws at the Shahjahanpur near the Haryana-Rajasthan Border were uprooted in Saturday’s evening’s massive storm and rains. The storm destroyed essential items, including consumables, fans and coolers, beds and other items. NewsClick learnt that at least three farmers sustained injuries while they were trying to take shelters in nearby concrete structures.
However, unfazed by the storm and its impact, the protesting farmers said the protests will continue, and have alreadystarted rebuilding work.
Ganpat Ram Bhera from Shyampura in Sikar told NewsClick that although he received injuries in his hand and head, his primary focus was to rebuild the tents so that his comrades can take shelter again.
“The storm was so massive that street light poles started falling. While we were running to save our lives, my tent completely crumbled and bamboo sticks fell on me. I fell on the ground. My friends ran to rescue me. In my memory, this storm was as strong as the one I witnessed one when Nehru had died in 1964,” he said.
Bhera said temporary electricity connection to the protest site got disconnected. “We only had one RO (reverse osmosis) treatment plant for water. Since electricity was not available, the plant did not work and we had to arrange water from nearby villages. Our friends have gone to Delhi and Bikaner to buy tents. Soon we will have everything in order,” he added.
The farmers camping at the border pay for the electricity consumed every month, putting to rest the propaganda about “enjoying things free of cost”.
When asked if he was worried about the prospects of living under the open skies after the storm, Bhera said: “We can withstand this natural calamity. When we sow seeds, we look at future with hope. However, these laws will ruin both our future and hope. My farms are being snatched. How can we abandon our struggle. Our tents may be broken but not our determination to fight.”
Meanwhile, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella of over 40 farmer unions, has appealed to social welfare organisations and people in general to provide help to farmers at the Kheri-Shajahanpur border in the form of food and other essential goods.
Talks between the Narendra Modi government and SKM ended unceremoniously on January 22 after the Union Agriculture Minister declined to withdraw the laws. The farmers believe that the laws will hamper food security of the country, open avenues for corporate slavery through contract farming and establishing private markets.
Recalling the devastation wreaked by Saturday evening’s storm, Prahlad Mandota, a student leader, said the entire protest site was ruined within 10-15 minutes. “The storm struck us around 5 p.m. Not a single tent can be used for living. We rescued people stuck under the collapsed tents. We are rebuilding the site now. We have released an account number for public support and have so far received Rs 5 lakh. We are procuring tents used by the Army and other para military forces. The tents are strong enough to withstand any weather. However, we still need money to accommodate everyone as we have procured only 40 tents,” he said.
Amra Ram, a veteran farmer leader and vice president, All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), told NewsClick that the protest site saw gusty winds and rains for the third time. However, Saturday evening’s storm was strongest.
“Those were cyclonic winds. They messed up things here and almost all the tents were completely broken. Electricity connection remained unavailable for two days. However, we could save our ration items as it was already stored at a distance in a pucca structure. The farmers have always faced the wrath of the weather. Still, he sows seeds again with hope,” he said.
When asked if the morcha at Shahjahanpur was planning similar action for states adjoining Rajasthan to defeat BJP akin to the call made by leaders to defeat BJP in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Punjab, the AIKS leader said: “Currently we are focusing on preparations for our programmes on June 5, which marks the completion of a year when these present laws were brought as ordinances.”
Farmers show black flags to Babita Phogat
Continuing their boycott, farmers in Haryana showed black flags to former Olympian and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Babita Phogat in Charkhi Dadri. The farmers have called for social boycott of leaders of BJP and its ally, Jannayak Janta Party. The opposition to BJP is so strong that some farmers families are reportedly refusing marry their sons/daughters into families of BJP leaders.
Meanwhile, a big batch of youngsters from Haryana reached the border and conducted a foot march from KFC to the Singhu Border Main Stage.
SKM, in a statement said, “the youth appreciated the active performance of all the elderly farmers and promised to support them in this movement. Young protesters have played an important role since the beginning of this movement. From time to time, youth in every role has strengthened this movement. Due to the active participation of the youth, there remains a constant strength in this movement. Samyukta Kisan Morcha calls for more and more youth to reach the borders of Delhi and strengthen the protest.”