Kolkata: Four people from West Bengal between the ages of 23 and 41 – three men and a woman – began walking from Howrah on December 28 to reach the Singhu border in New Delhi in a show of solidarity with the farmers’ agitation.
Those that are walking to join the agitation against the Farm Laws, which has been going on for more than a month now, include theatre and film actor Joyraj Bhattacharjee (41). The others are Soumyaranjan Mukherjee (23), Aniyan Roy (27) and Piyali Chatterjee (38).
The foursome have been walking for about 30 kms on an average during the day and taking a train or a car at night to reach their next destination. They will walk through Jharkhand and Bihar after crossing West Bengal and then move towards the Bihar-UP border from where they would take a train to Delhi.
“Farmers from various parts of India have started walking from distant states such as Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu to the agitation site in New Delhi to join the movement. Farmers from Odisha have started walking as well. Our walk is in solidarity with those farmers walking long distances,” said Bhattacharjee. The protest at the Singhu border near Delhi was in its 36th day on Thursday.
Left workers joined actor Joyraj Bhattacharjee during the walk at Galsi in East Burdwan district on Tuesday.
Bhattacharjee has been running a canteen for people from the working classes in Howrah district’s Bajeshibpur area over the past few months. He began with the initiative to especially cater meals to the working class during the COVID-19 pandemic. He had visited the agitation site at the Singhu border a fortnight ago and had contributed over Rs one lakh to the peasant leadership.
After returning to West Bengal, he decided to go again, this time on foot. The other three who have volunteered to join him have been associated with him in his fight for various social causes.
“We want to spread the message that this movement is not only by the farmers of north India. When the agitation was being planned, it was decided that farmers from the states near Delhi would be involved in the sit-in demonstration because bringing in farmers from the farthest corners of the country would be fatal. Nevertheless, agitations are taking place in all states, even though these agitations are not getting attention in mainstream media,” Bhattacharjee said.
Creating public awareness about the “dangers” of the Centre’s new Farm Laws is another objective of their journey.
Joyraj Bhattacharjee during his walk.
They are being accompanied by local supporters of Left parties and social activists from the respective areas as they walk along. They are also attending street-corner meetings organised by Left parties such as the CPI(M), Forward Bloc and CPI(ML)(Liberation).
On Tuesday, they walked from Burdwan town to Galsi in East Burdwan district, a stretch of 25 kms, and then took a train from Galsi to Durgapur, about 45 kms away. Their plan for Wednesday (December 30) was to walk from Durgapur till sundown and then hop on a vehicle to Asansol, from where they would begin their walk on Thursday.
During their walk from Durgapur on Wednesday, the CPI(M)'s sitting MLA from Durgapur East, Santosh Debray, and the Forward Bloc's former Rajya Sabha MP Jayanta Roy attended a street corner meeting supporting the four and called on people to intensify the agitation.
“We congratulate Bhattacharjee for this message of solidarity with the protesting farmers. Once these laws come into effect, common people from all sections of the society will be hurt,” Debray said.
A couple of hours later, the four stopped to address another street corner meeting.
A cultural protest at Durgapur during their walk on Wednesday.
Durgapur and Asansol are in West Burdwan district at the state’s borders with Jharkhand.
In Jharkhand and Bihar, too, members of All India Kisan Sabha, the farmers’ wing of the CPI(M), and organisations associated with CPI(ML)(Liberation) would organise street corner meetings which they would address.
The four had decided to walk through Uttar Pradesh as well but other Left organisations advised them against doing so saying the Yogi Adityanath government could arrest them and throw them behind bars for an indefinite period.
The four hope to reach Delhi on January 5.
Left workers congratulating actor Joyraj Bhattacharjee for his walk. In Burdwan district on Tuesday.
In West Bengal, the state’s ruling party, the Trinamool Congress (TMC), and opposition parties, including those belonging to the Left Front and the Congress, have opposed the three Farm Laws the farmers are protesting against. The BJP, which emerged as the TMC’s principal opponent in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, has accused the Left, the TMC and the Congress of misleading the people.
Even though the TMC had sent a delegation of elected public representatives to Delhi’s agitation site, no major farmers’ delegation from West Bengal has gone to Delhi yet. However, one of the key leaders of the movement in Delhi is All India Kisan Sabha general secretary Hannan Mollah, a CPI(M) leader and former eight-time Lok Sabha MP from West Bengal.