Sandeep Singh: The Farmers Protest Is Alive And Well
Optimism has swung back into the movement today
January 28, 2021 | 4 min. read
Many questions were raised about the farmer’s movement immediately after the Republic Day tractor rally on January 26.
Farmer leaders were defensive and apologetic, spending their time attacking Deep Sidhu and Lakha Sidhana.
Mainstream media channels were quick to suggest that farmers were vacating protest sites.
Giddy critics wrote eulogies for the movement.
Delhi and UP Police also began mobilizing at the Singhu and Ghazipur border respectively the next day on January 27.
Singhu is made up of two different stages, one for United Farmers Front and the other for the Kisan Mazdoor Sangarsh Committee. A narrow lane connects the two stages and protest sites, however, that was barricaded and closed by police, blocking access and travel between the two. Many feared that a crackdown was imminent.
Internet services had also been suspended at the sites, adding an additional layer of fear amongst farmers and their families. The connection blackout chocked both information coming in to and out of the area. This has been a particular blow for farmers and independent journalists that depended on the connection to host live social media broadcasts and feeds directly from the protest. The inability to share the ground truths has allowed mainstream media to set the narrative.
Many here are bitter that the suspension allowed some media outlets to spread unchecked disinformation surrounding the Red Fort incident on Republic Day - namely that a Khalistan flag was unfurled after the removal of the Indian flag, something we all knew to be false.
However, optimism swung back into the movement today.
The Tiranga Tractor Rally of January 28 and Farmer leader Rakesh Tikait’s viral and emotional video has breathed new life into the protests.
Singhu border, which had lost its celebratory mood immediately after Republic Day, is now once again alive as a result of the Trianga Tractor Rally. It has had the effect of boosting morale of farmers that were otherwise on the defensive. The youth rose to the occasion and were seen holding placards asking everyone to remain patient and continue the struggle with resolve.
Manpreet Singh, of Gharun village in Punjab’s Mohali district, explained why he participated, “we took out to a march just to tell the government and mainstream media that the farmers have not gone back. We are still here. We will either win or die.”
When asked about a possible police crackdown, he said, “Punjabis and Haryanvis do not fear anyone. We took out this new march only to show Godi media that we have not gone back. Our tractor rally is around 20km long.”
Manpreet Singh added that he will not go back until they get justice, “our community has been taught either to win or to die. We have lost so many farmers - we have to honor their sacrifice. Again, either we will win or we will die.”
The other pivotal movement restoring earlier energy to the protests belongs to BKU leader Rakesh Tikait.
UP police had issued a notice to Tikait and told him to leave the Ghazipur protest site, attempting to intimidate him and his farmers with heavy police presence. But Tikait’s viral and passionate speech rejecting the call galvanized farmers from UP and Haryana. Announcements are now being made from Hindu temples of Haryana calling people to join the protest. Farmers have begun a journey to Delhi from Haryana’s Jind and Karnal regions to reinforce Ghazipur.
As the vibrancy returned to the multiple protest sites, farmers began to open up on whether they will leave or stay to continue the demonstration.
Samund Singh, of Drajke Pehlwanke village in Punjab’s Tarantaran District, has been protesting at Singhu border since November 27. Owner of 6 acres, Samund Singh is in no mood to leave, “people were worried because of the flag incident. But that is not just some flag, that is our Nishan Sahib. It was an act of immature people, but it had nothing to do with Khalistan,” he goes on to add, “neither is our morale down nor will we go back. We will stay here until the government revokes the three farm laws.”
Jasvir Singh from Fatehgarh Sahib had established a library at the onset of the protest and is adamant that the protest sites have not depopulated, “Some people had specifically come here for the Republic Day tractor rally and now they have gone back home after January 26 as they originally planned to. But, the people who were here since the protest began are still here. Some faces have become familiar to us. They come daily to our library and meet us. The situation at Singhu is not like how the national media is showing.”
In the next few days, the future of farmer’s protests will be clear. However, a lot of it will depend on the unity of farmers and organizations.
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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