Sandeep Singh: Tikait Revives The Farmers Protest
Rakesh Tikait’s tears renew the agitation, now growing quicker than ever
January 29, 2021 | 5 min. read
Kapil Mishra took to Twitter on January 28 to mock Rakesh Tikait.
Tikait had just given an emotional plea, shedding tears in the process. “The country is laughing”, Mishra tweeted, sensing that the farmers’ protest was on its last legs.
He spoke too soon.
Tikait’s tears have actually revived the agitation, now growing quicker than ever - partly in response to the premature arrogance and victory laps put on by the BJP.
The truth is, many of Tikait’s supporters were calling it quits, demoralized with the feeling of the movement slipping away due to the Republic Day rally. Pressure from BJP supporters calling for his arrest was also weighing heavy on protestors sitting at Ghazipur.
The government, sensing an opportunity, decided it was time to clear the protest site. First, the power and water were shut off. Then the police and paramilitary forces arrived in large numbers. Finally, Tikait was given notice - leave the site or else. BJP MLAs made their way over as well, looking for a quick political win as the men who brought down Tikait. Other farmer leaders were nowhere to be seen. It was a dire and sad scene.
Until Tikait took to the main stage microphone - like a phoenix rising out of the ashes, he revived the farmers’ protest in a matter of minutes.
“Shoot us if you have to, but we are not leaving Ghazipur!”
Social media and cellphones began pinging with videos of Tikait’s fiery speech across Delhi, UP, and Haryana. Then more videos started coming in, this time of people leaving for Ghazipur in the middle of the night answering the calls made from temples across Haryana. Emergency meetings were held in villages across northern India and farmers dispatched. It did not take long for the protest site to swell with reinforcements.
Electricity was restored.
Security forces started leaving.
The BJP MLAs ran away.
Ghazipur was a completely different place in the morning.
Amit Chaudhary, a resident of a village near Hapur district of UP arrived at the Ghazipur border the next morning, "the government wants to build a perception in the minds of Indians that farmers are anti-national. Do you think we are anti-national? If we do not sow a crop for one season the entire country would suffer the consequences,” he went on to add, “yesterday, two BJP MLAs came with around 100 people. Tikait Sahib said that if he surrendered to the police these people would have beaten the farmers. He was not going to allow that."
Chaudhary was at home when he saw the video of Tikait, "I could not sleep the entire night and I repeatedly watched the video of TIkait crying. I hired a driver to take my tractor-trolley loaded with sugarcane to the mill so that I can participate in the protest. In the morning I met other farmers and started our march towards Delhi. We were stopped by police in Bulandshahar and then in Nizampur. Police had taken out the key of the vehicle and the BJP is sending goons to different protest sites,” he continues, “we have already started teaching them a lesson. They wanted to hold Chaupal in villages, but they could not hold those Chaupals. We will teach them a lesson in the 2022 UP election. We put these people in power, next time we will teach them a lesson."
Harinder Singh Jat, also from Hapur, shared that the way BJP MLAs tried to intimidate farmers was very shameful, “the MLAs and their entourages verbally abuse the farmers. They cannot stay MLAs forever, but we farmers will stay farmers for our entire lives. A man cries only when his morale is down. Tikait was ready to surrender but these people tried to insult him”, Harinder goes on to add, “we could not sleep, so we marched to Ghazipur at 9 AM. We got emotional after watching Tikait crying. He is fighting for us, not for himself."
Approximately a hundred kilometers away, a mahapanchayat called by Tikait's brother Naresh Tikait as a result of Rakesh Tikait’s video, was attended by tens of thousands of farmers. It was held on the GIC ground in Muzaffarnagar and decided to back Rakesh Tikait and slowly move towards Ghazipur border.
Tikait, who is the younger son of the legendary farmer leader Mahendra Singh Tikait, has considerable influence in the Jat-dominated western Uttar Pradesh. The mahapanchayat led by the Tikait brothers in 2013 led to a series of clashes in the region and provided an opportunity for the BJP to electorally capture the area. Tikait himself has said that he voted for Modi in 2019. But the situation has changed dramatically now. What opened the gates for BJP in 2013 may well become a major nuisance for them moving forward.
Sumit Chaudhary, of Amroha district, was driving his tractor towards the Ghazipur border when we stopped him to talk. Around 10 people were sitting in a trolley attached to a tractor, “our convoy of 1000 tractors is coming to Ghazipur. This government made the son of Mahender Singh Tikait cry, farmers will make sure that the government weeps too”, he goes on, “our leaders were ready to surrender peacefully but BJP leaders tried to create chaos here. We held a meeting around 8 PM in our village and our blood boiled after watching the video. It is the reason we march to Delhi now in support."
Another farmer sitting in the trolley adds, “we could not see tears in eyes of our leader Tikait Sahib. Modi will not be able to count the number of farmers who are moving to Delhi."
Indresh, from a village in Bagpat district of UP, showed me the WhatsApp chat of the village group, "we had seen the video on YouTube of Baba Rakesh Tikait crying and then contacted each other on the village's WhatsApp group. We held a panchayat in the village around 12 AM, senior citizens said they will come in the morning, and youngsters were told to leave for the protest site during the night. Around 7 youngsters left for protest site and within an hour we were here. We plan to stay here till our Baba wants us to protest."
Indresh added that he was heartbroken after the January 26 Red Fort incident, "many people have wrongly accused farmers of insulting the Indian national flag. No one insulted the Indian national flag. The Nishan Sahib was unfurled on an empty flagpole at the Red Fort, not a Khalistani flag. There should not have been any violence on that day from the police."
He made sure to emphasize the emotional bond with Rakesh Tikait, "Tikait is like a father for us, when we saw him crying we got tears in our eyes. The way a father cannot see his son crying we cannot see our father crying. Around a thousand people from our two villages are marching to Ghazipur now."
The farmers’ agitation, which was on its heels immediately after January 26, has been revived again. In the late afternoon, the Haryana government suspended internet services in 14 districts, which has only galvanized the people more.
Farm leaders from Punjab, who were on the defensive after Republic Day, have started to regroup and are now demanding a full repeal once again. Tikait has become a sensation among the youth of Punjab too. Ghazipur, which was considered insignificant compared to the Singhu and Tikri borders, has now become a hotspot of the agitation.
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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