Sandeep Singh: Narayan Singh, The Farmers' Protest, And A Chandigarh Chowk
While Chandigarh is not known for farming, you will find supporters of the Farmers’ Protest, like 70-year-old Narayan Singh, demonstrating at different chowks around the city.
May 5, 2021 | 4.5 min. read
While Chandigarh is not known for farming, you will find supporters of the Farmers’ Protest demonstrating at different chowks around the city.
One such central site is Matka Chowk, which has been home to Narayan Singh, a 70-year-old Sikh dressed in an iconic blue bana. People from afar come to meet him.
Narayan Singh arrives every day and stays from early in the morning to late at night. No matter the weather, you will find him here. When I went to interview him, it was almost 40 degrees celsius. But there he was, sitting underneath the open sky and beaming sun. It was so hot my iPhone stopped recording after a few minutes due to the heat.
However, the heat never bothers Narayan Singh.
“As Waheguru’s servant, I do not fear anything good or bad. They sent me here, they will protect me. They are with me.”
He is also cognizant of the fact that his farming brothers and sisters in Delhi are facing great hardships too now.
“I can’t see the pain of our farmers who are protesting at Delhi’s borders. If farmers are protesting there and dying at Delhi’s borders, then I will die protesting here. What will we be left with if they snatch our land?”
While we chatted, cars passing around the chowk blew their horns and raised their hands out of respect to Narayan Singh.
He had gone to the protest site as well back in January when the pivotal Republic Day Tractor Rally entered the country’s capital.
“I had heard announcements that everyone should go to Delhi on January 26. I too left Chandigarh for Delhi on January 23. The day farmers had left for Delhi march and unfurled the Nishan Sahib on the Red Fort, I too was in Delhi.”
He makes sure to share that he is not sitting here because he has nothing better to do. Narayan comes from a well-off farming family and he claims that his family lives in the village of Landran in Mohali district. They own 20 acres of land.
As my phone overheats again, someone brings over lassi, food, and fruit for Narayan Singh and those sitting with him. Another woman stops her car in the chowk and donates 500 rupees to the protest.
There are two individuals sitting with him, Ranjit Singh and Ramandeep Singh. They are not from Chandigarh. They traveled 125 kilometers from Haryana’s Karnal just to sit in protest with him.
“His background is from our area. We used to see posts about him on social media so we decided to travel to Chandigarh just to be with him. We see and think that he is protesting as a 70 years old man, why can’t we do the same? We have been to the Delhi border many times on a rotation basis.”
Ramandeep shares that watching Narayan Singh gives a great deal of inspiration. “He is protesting alone, regardless of anything else, so we feel proud. We came in the morning and will leave in the evening. We plan on coming back to meet him again.”
This is not my first visit to Matka Chowk. On April 12 Chandigarh Police tried to evict him and after seeing an appeal on social media I had reached the site. There were at least 100 people gathered in support of Narayan Singh. It turned out that protestors had a WhatsApp group in which they used to communicate and mobilize locally.
While he has become the face of the protest in Chandigarh, Narayan Singh is not the only one who regularly protests at Matka Chowk. There are hundreds of others who come every night. They hold farmer flags, raise slogans, and play pro-farmer music. The Chandigarh Administration imposes a lockdown every night from 6 PM to 5 AM, so demonstrators come to protest from around 4 PM to 6 PM.
Raj Gill, a giddha coach, is a regular participant in the protest at Matka Chowk.
“I’ve been coming every day to protest at Matka Chowk since December 8. Being a giddha coach is obviously not farming, but now our roti is directly under threat. It is not only about our survival but also about the survival of our future kids. We live in Chandigarh, but in our village in Punjab we own land and my family does farming”, she goes on to add, “Chandigarh is a Union Territory and ruled by the Centre. If we protest here, our voice will directly reach Delhi. People from surrounding villages and cities come to protest here.”
Jangu Nimana, an artist and farmer, thinks it is important for residents of Chandigarh to be involved in the Farmers’ Protest as well, in whatever way they can.
“Many people work here and can’t leave their work to protest at Singhu border in Delhi. So we decided to protest here every day. They say only uneducated people are protesting at Singhu border. Most people in Chandigarh are educated. Initially, we were protesting in our village. Then we thought that we need to protest in Chandigarh to make more people aware of the issue. We are getting a great response.”
Much like the protest sites around Delhi, there is the arrangement of langar here every day. Protestors usually distribute cold drinks, lassi, juice, and other food goods amongst each other, making sure to clean up the protest sites before leaving for the day.
Far away from Delhi, in a place referred to as City Beautiful, Narayan Singh and the other protestors continue to shine a light on the injustices faced by the farmers of Punjab and India. At a time when people across the country continue to raise their voices against the Modi regime, the hubs of resistance in Punjab remain resolute.
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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