Thousands of farmers from Haryana and Punjab entered Chandigarh on Saturday to commemorate the “Kheti Bachao, Loktantra Bachao” (Save Agriculture, Save Democracy) day which marked the completion of seven months of the farmers’ protest and the 46th anniversary of Emergency in India.
The protesting farmers marched to the Governors’ residence in Chandigarh, following the call of Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella body of farm unions, to present a memorandum seeking the repeal of three farm laws.
On their way to Chandigarh, the farmers from Haryana and Punjab were confronted with barriers and heavy police deployment at Panchkula and Mohali respectively. Few instances of confrontation between the police and the farmers were also witnessed during the march. Water cannons, trucks, and dumpers have been deployed at the Chandigarh borders. However, the farm unions have maintained that they would protest peacefully.
Farmer leaders including Balbir Singh Rajewal, Rudlu Singh Mansa, Prem Singh Bhangu and many others joined the march from Punjab. Alongside, Gurnam Singh Charuni, Yogendra Yadav and youth leader Ravi Azad, among others joined the protest from Haryana. Both young and old farmers took part in the demonstration, with the youth taking the lead.
The memorandums, which were supposed to be submitted to the President through the governors, were collected by the District Collectors.
The anniversary of India's Emergency, according to Punjab Kisan Union Leader Rudlu Singh Mansa, serves as a reminder of the country's current "undeclared emergency”.
“Except for the fact that it is undeclared, there is no difference between today's Emergency and the Emergency declared during Indira Gandhi's tenure. But that would not stop us from fighting for our rights. We will keep protesting till our demands are heard,” Mansa said.
There have been 11 rounds of inconclusive talks between the central ministers and the farm unions. What began as a movement from Punjab last November, saw the coming together of farmers from Haryana and Uttar Pradesh against the three “controversial” farm laws.
But since the farmers from Haryana have joined the movement, there has been a certain perception that they are aggressive. Youth leader Ravi Azad said that Saturday’s protest has dispelled such rumours.
“We want our demands to be fulfilled because it is a question of our survival and we want to do it peacefully. It was decided that we won’t remove barricades from now on and that would protest peacefully.”
The farmers' demand to repeal the three agricultural laws is emphasised in the memorandas sent to President Ram Nath Kovind. “The country names us ‘Aan Daata,' and we can prove it even during COVID times, but in exchange, we are gifted with three agricultural regulations that will harm our survival,” the memorandum states.
The memorandum further emphasises that the government has taken all action possible to put an end to the farmers' protests. “What we have seen over the previous seven months of our protest harkens back to the Emergency era. Students, labourers, dalits, and women are among those protesting against the government, not only farmers,” it says.
Farm protest which has the support of villages in Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh has resolved to intensify the protest in the coming days. The protesting farmers said that they are aiming at strengthening the Delhi borders by joining in large numbers. “There have been preparations made to fortify the Delhi borders. We will show up with force to deliver the message that farmers will not budge unless their demands are met,” Azad added.