Sandeep Singh: BJP Government Will Use COVID Pretext To Clear Farmers Protest Reports Suggest
Dainik Jagran, a Hindi Daily, reported on April 15 that the Modi government has prepared an operation to clear the sites, including an aerial survey of the Singhu and Tikri borders.
April 17, 2021 | 4 min. read
India has been struck by a new wave of the pandemic, which has seen significant spikes in COVID cases and deaths. People desperately seeking hospital beds, medicine, oxygen, and medical help on Twitter is just one example of how dire the situation has become in some parts of the country.
As cases spiral in various states, videos and images of political mega rallies and parades continuing unabated circulate online and in the media. Especially large rallies led by members of the governing BJP.
However, in contrast, reports have started to swirl that the central government will use the COVID pretext to evict farmers from Delhi’s multiple borders. Dainik Jagran, a Hindi Daily, reported on April 15 that the Modi government has prepared an operation to clear the sites, including an aerial survey of the Singhu and Tikri borders. Reports suggest that paramilitary forces will be used to push farmers out if demands are not met.
While the reports remain unconfirmed, they are being taken seriously. The Centre used a similar tactic in March 2020, during the first wave of COVID, when they had the Shaheen Bagh anti-CAA protest cleared and effectively undermined the agitation.
Demonstrators taking part in the Farmers’ Protest remain defiant.
“If they come to remove us forcefully, We won’t go back but die here. We are not people who will get afraid and go back to our home. They can’t make us quit protest by using such tactics and threats,” said 67-year-old Surinder Singh, a resident of Khudda village in Hoshiarpur District.
“Tell the government that what they did to us in 1984 and Delhi riots, we won’t let that get repeated,” he added.
16-year-old Pyardeep Randhawa, a class 10th student from Raipur Rasulpur village of Jalandhar Ditrict, had come to the site as schools have been closed due to COVID-19. He used the opportunity to participate in the protest.
“I am not afraid. How can they remove us? We have prepared for the long haul and won’t get removed”
When asked about his studies he replied, “I have whole life for studying.”
Amritsar resident, Raminder Singh, makes it clear that the protest sites around Delhi have become a second home for farmers. Evicting them will not be easy. “We won’t go back - whether the government uses paramilitary or commandos. They should repeal the laws so that we go back to our homes. We are not protesting here to have fun.”
He makes a particular note on the hypocrisy of the government, as it continues to defy all COVID restrictions itself for unnecessary political rallies.
“When it comes to the Farmers’ Protest they are saying the COVID numbers are rising. Where is the COVID-19 in West Bengal where politicians are holding election rallies,” he adds.
Farmers are mindful of COVID and the rising numbers. They are using the opportunity to remind demonstrators to take public health precautions at multiple sites.
Surjit Phool, a leader with Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), confirms that farmers are being told to take extra health precautions.
“We have told the farmers to take precautions. The government is trying to use COVID as a political tool and we won’t let them do this. If someone sees symptoms then they will take the vaccine,” he goes on to add, “It has been three to four months since we started protesting here and we have lost more than 300 farmers. We have copies of everyone’s post-mortem report and not even a single farmer died from COVID.”
Farm leaders are determined to continue the protest and are not ready to leave the demonstration sites.
“The government is mistaken if they think they will remove us forcefully. If it acts in such a way, it will have to pay a heavy price for such action. People in Punjab are watching and they will come back to Delhi even though they are in Punjab due to harvesting season,” Harpal Sangha, a farm leader and a member of SKM, said.
The example and lessons from Shaheen Bagh loom large, as the parallels become more glaring.
“The Farmers’ Protest is not a carbon copy of Shaheen Bagh. Farmers are here to fight a battle for their survival, generations, and crops. It is better to die fighting for our rights,” he adds.
Phool echos that sentiment.
“The Centre wants to use the excuse of Corona to target and end the farmer protest. They had tried to end the protest at Tikri and Gazipur. We had come to Delhi with a commitment that we won’t go back to Punjab without getting laws repealed, and guarantee MSP.”
Morale remains strong in the face of growing rumors of a government crackdown. But Phool has a clear message to those in the Modi government that think this is a golden opportunity to end the Farmers’ Protest.
“The government has two options: one is to use force another is to arrest. We are ready for both. They can do lathi charge, use water cannon, and fire tear gas shells. We have faced such brutalities in past. We won’t go back to Punjab until govt accepts our demands.”
Sandeep Singh hails from Machhiwara, Punjab. As an independent journalist, he has worked with many prominent Indian news organizations. Sandeep has been following the farmer’s protest in Punjab since its onset and traveled with them to Delhi. He spends most of his time at the Singhu border protest site. You can follow Sandeep on Twitter @Punyaab
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