Rohtak/Jhajjar: It was arguably the coldest afternoon this winder, accompanied by harsh chilly winds and intermittent rain showers – both of which could have brought about shivers in the young. But there stood 60-year old Angoori Devi, undeterred by the dipping mercury, for whom the day will not be “easily forgotten” for entirely different reasons.
Waving on the marching farmers from the side of the road that runs across her village Garhi Sampla in Haryana, she was busy distributing biscuits; some 20-odd packets purchased with all the money she had. “Today I can say that I also supported the protesting farmers with something. Madad kam hai par saath mein toh aage bhi rahenge inke (I may have not contributed much but will continue to support them),” Devi, who farms two bighas of land said, her head held high.
On Monday, a number of villagers from Haryana became a part of the ongoing farmers’ agitation against the contentious Farm Laws. What made it possible was the tractor rally called by the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan), the largest farmers’ outfit in Punjab.
Farmers rallied in about 1,400 tractors and trolleys throughout the day, passing from one village to another in Rohtak, Jhajjar, and Rewari – the three districts close to the national capital. These farmers, who are primarily staying put at the Tikri border for the 38th day on the trot, will be on the roads for the next two days; the rally is set to conclude on Monday at the Shahjahanpur border protest site on the Delhi-Jaipur expressway.
Part of the union’s “awareness campaign”, the rally welcomed those who could not have taken part in the protests on the outskirts of Delhi, even as they heard about it all day long. “I have been getting to know that farmers have been protesting in Delhi since long. One of my sons visits Tikri (protest site) every now and then but I couldn’t because of my high BP (blood pressure),” Devi, whose other son is in the Indian Army, told Newsclick, reiterating that the “farmers shouldn’t go back before ensuring that the kaale kaanon are repealed.”
Roop Singh, who hails from the same village as Devi, also realised his wishes today thanks to the tractor rally. “These farmers are protesting to save the whole village economy. Everyone should stand shoulder to shoulder with them,” the 66-year old said. He couldn’t have gone to the protest site due to the persistent pain in his back. Women and children were seen at the forefront in welcoming the marching farmers from outside their homes.
Angoori Devi from Garhi Sampla in Haryana waving at those who were part of the tractor rally on Saturday
Fifty-seven-year-old Surjeet Singh, 57 from the village of Khahar greeted the rally with his entire family of six. “I have already visited the border sites for two days two weeks ago,” said the ex-army personnel, “and now even my family members are more than willing to join the protests.”
The tractor rally had played its role, Singh believes. “Look at how they are being welcomed by the villagers. More villagers will now join the protests in Delhi with renewed vigour,” he added.
Only a few kilometres away in Matan village, Satyavan, 28, would agree. A daily wager who used to till about three to four killas of land till last year was having a hard time convincing his friends to support the farmers’ protest. “They wouldn’t listen to me and would reiterate what they heard on TV, about how the Centre is doing its job and that the protesters are influenced by the opposition,” he lamented.
Not any more. “After this tractor rally my friends will not doubt the protesters any longer,” said Satyavaan, who went on to explain how the new laws will make farming “even lesser profitable”; something that had pushed him to explore other options last year.
While riding through narrow lanes on their tractors which bore their yellow and green union flags, they made sure to carry photographs of those who were “martyred” during the protests; the farmers made sure that at least one member of a house gets the union parcha that explains the position of the protesting outfit.
“We are distributing the parchas and are making announcements from the tractors while appealing to the villagers from Haryana to join the protest in Delhi,” said Gardev Singh of BKU-Ekta Ugrahan. This is part of the awareness campaign to “intensify the agitation in the days to come,” he added.
Asked why the BKU-Ekta Ugrahan chose to go ahead with the rally as opposed to postponing it – what the SKM did – Singh said that since the talks with the Centre “cannot be called successful yet”, there was no point in delaying. A tractor rally at Kundli-Manesar-Palwal expressway, called fpr by the umbrella body of over 40 farmers’ unions, was postponed twice in light of ongoing negotiations with the Centre.
“The Centre hasn’t agreed to repeal the laws yet, nor has it agreed to provide MSP as a legal right. The last meeting only shows that the government is under immense pressure,” said Singh of the December 30 meeting. The Centre reportedly reached an “in-principle” agreement to resolve peripheral issues of the farmers with the fine for stubble burning and the amendment to the electricity law.
Saying that the rally would further hardpress the Centre, 38-year-old Hardeep Singh from Patiala said that the “three to four km long rally will cover 50 to 60 villages in total over the next two days.”
If the Centre does not accept their primary demands in the next meeting – scheduled on Monday – then more than a thousand people will join the protesters in Delhi, Singh said.
On Saturday, in a break from tradition, the farmers from Punjab did not carry much food with them for the next three days but only had mattresses and other essentials. “Langar sewa, along with arrangements for staying at night are being done by villagers from Haryana,” Gardev Singh said. The farmers will be spending the Saturday night in a village in Rewari district, he informed.
Ranabir Pehalwan, 55, who was distributing tea and moongfalis to the rallying farmers, said: “These farmers are our brothers. They are fighting for us and we are supporting them in whichever way we can,” the owner of an Akhara in Garhi Sampla told Newsclick.
A resident of Charra village, who did not want to be identified, told Newsclick that the rally was “something that he had never experienced before.”
“After all, even card-games (played with much excitement in Haryana) were being stopped just to salute these farmers,” he said. The conversation was soon interrupted by an announcement on the speakers on one of the rallying tractors.
“Haryana walon yeh patte khelne ka nahi; kheti bachane ka waqt hai. Delhi chalo hamare sath aur morcha lagao sarkaar ke khilaaf (People of Haryana, this is not the time to play card games but to save farming. Come to Delhi with us and agitate against the government).”