Clad in an off white kurta, Dharaminder Singh is making incessant calls to his friends to enquire about preparations of Bharat Bandh in different districts of Punjab. Hailing from Mukeria in Pathankot district, Singh said that members of different farmers’ unions are holding rallies in markets to request traders to shut their shops and join the congregation at the toll plazas and other designated places. Singh told NewsClick that the coordinated campaign in rural and urban areas is being run to ensure a complete bandh on September 27.
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) -- a collective of farmers’ organisations -- appealed to people across the country to observe a complete bandh by shutting down offices, colleges, factories, showrooms, shopping malls and other establishments to mark the completion of 10 months of protest at the borders of the national capital against the three Central farm laws.
In its appeal, the SKM said: “From 6 am to 4 pm on September 27, everything would be closed throughout the country: all government and private offices, all educational and other institutions, all shops, industries and commercial establishments, all public events and functions. Public and private transport shall also come to a halt during this period. All emergency establishments and essential services including hospitals, medical stores, relief and rescue work and people attending to personal emergencies will be exempted.” It highlighted that the struggle is to stand with the farmers in their quest to defend principles of democracy and federalism.
On preparations in Punjab, Singh said: "Volunteers tie loudspeakers on top of their cars and announce about the bandh in villages. In some villages, we are holding bike rallies and people are showing their support and solidarity. These convoys are welcomed and young boys and girls express their thoughts on the farm laws.”
When asked if the bandh would be effective in areas where Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) once enjoyed support, particularly in his own district, Singh said: “BJP tried everything last time but failed miserably. If they disrupt or put obstacles this time, their decay would be complete. I fail to understand what message (PM) Narendra Modi wants to deliver. We are sitting for 10 months and he is dining in America. First, we were anguished. Now, we hate him.”
Asked if the ruling Congress and other parties would walk the talk by mobilising their workers on the day, Singh told NewsClick: "People are vigilantly watching who is joining the protest and who is sitting at home. In villages, we know clearly which person belongs to which party and how is he conducting himself in this protest. Can he gather the courage to come to our homes and ask for votes? People would grab his collar and simply ask, where were you in this struggle?"
Rajinder Singh Deep Singh Wala, Vice President, Kirti Kisan Union, told NewsClick that the campaigns and preparations were being conducted by district-level coordination committees of SKM. He emphasised that the bandh has already garnered support from all taxi unions, transporters, employee associations who have assured him about their participation.
”On September 27, we plan to block all national highways, railway tracks and major roads. People will be flocking to toll plazas and other places to attend these big congregations where day-long proceedings would take place and leaders and activists would address the meeting. The bandh would be a testimony that we would not end our agitation until our demands are met,” he said.
Commenting on PM Modi’s US tour when they would be observing the bandh, Singh said: “A person who has compelled the people to sit on roads for almost a year is certainly people’s enemy.”
Major Singh Punnawal, Secretary, Kul Hind Kisan Sabha, said the intensity of the protest could be gauged from the fact that the granthis (preachers) of gurudwaras are announcing twice from their loudspeakers about the bandh and encouraging people to participate in the protest.
”In Punjab, we have formed committees of farmers, agricultural workers and workers who are visiting villages to inform people and seek their participation. In the entire Punjab, I think the congregations would take place at more than 1,000 places where these big meetings of about 5,000 people would take. As far as gurudwaras are concerned, they are not only making announcements, they are also providing us with space to hold meetings,” he told NewsClick.
Punnawal said employees of Punjab Roadways will not be operating their buses, adding that they had they received similar assurances from transport unions who are already hit by raging fuel prices.
Harinder Bindu from Bharatiya Kisan Union Ekta Ugrahan said their organisation had clubbed the bandh with the birthday celebrations of legendary freedom fighter Bhagat Singh as the struggle is both against contentious laws and imperialism.
“Our women teams are going to villages to encourage women to join the struggle on roads as well as the borders. It is a fight for equality where women and men both are flag bearers of this agitation,” he added.
Local media reports suggest that universities and colleges will too have their protest meetings inside the campuses of Guru Nanak Dev University and Punjabi University in Amritsar and Patiala, respectively.