Farmers from Punjab chanting slogans during their house arrest in a gurudwara ahead of their visit to Shaheen Bagh last week.
Over a lakh people including farmers, workers and students from across the state are expected to participate in a mega rally on February 16 against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Malerkotla, Punjab.
Asked why he opposes the recent amendment to the Citizenship Act which excludes Muslims from obtaining citizenship rights meant for religious refugees, Harjinder Singh, a Sikh farmer, said: “Muslim brothers in my pind (hometown) are farmers first. The law is as much against me as it is against them,” he told NewsClick over the phone.
In Punjab, a sentiment of brotherhood which has gained currency across social strata is set to be displayed on a scale not witnessed in recent times. Farmers, workers, and students, many of them women, are gearing up for a mega rally in Malerkotla on February 16.
Over a lakh people from across the state are expected to take part in the march to voice their resistance against the CAA and the proposed NRC.
At least 15 organisations, including left-leaning workers’ fronts, farmers’ associations and students’ unions have already extended their support to the march, NewsClick has learnt.
“Not just Muslims, but individuals from all religions will come together on February 16,” said Singh, who is also the general secretary of Bhatinda’s unit of the Bharatiya Kisan Union – Ekta (Ugrahan). “Preparations regarding the same are ongoing for over a month now,” he added.
Preparations in the area include a series of nukkad nataks (street plays), public meetings and door-to-door campaigns organised in villages across all districts in the state to make people aware about the law and the proposed exercise, and seek their participation in protest of it, NewsClick has been told.
“We are covering every single pind and appealing to people to come for the meeting,” Singh said, mentioning that the response has been positive so far.
Singh also explains his reason behind the protest. “In Punjab today, a farmer demands good monetary returns for his crop. Workers demand jobs, while students demand good education. To have a citizenship law that is discriminatory in nature is not what we want. The law is being forced upon us, we will resist it,” he said.
As protests erupted across the country in the aftermath of the CAA in December 2019, the state of Punjab raised its voice too.
In a first, a women’s vigil – inspired by the Shaheen Bagh protest in Delhi – has been underway since January 7 in Malerkotla against the Centre’s decision. The indefinite protest that started in Malerkotla, the only Muslim-majority town in Punjab, spread to other cities as well, encompassing Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Mansa.
Last February 4, as many as 350 farmers visited Delhi in a show of solidarity with the protesting women of Shaheen Bagh. The farmers arranged for a langar (community kitchen) at the protest site. However, this wasn’t easy as they were first put under house arrest in a gurudwara by the Delhi Police, which reports to the Central Government.
Gardev Singh, who was one of the farmers who visited Shaheen Bagh, had told NewsClick at the time that the government was intent on projecting these protests as only being organised by Muslims.
When NewsClick spoke to him this morning, he re-iterated that the “protests are being led by all the citizens of the nation and not just a particular community. The February 16 mega rally will go down as an example of the same.”