New Delhi: Farmers from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh on Friday gathered in large numbers at the three Delhi border points of Singhu, Ghazipur and Tikri, with protesting unions saying that the day, which marks one year of their agitation against the three farm laws, will be remembered forever in history as one of the greatest moments of people’s struggle.
Last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that the three controversial farm laws would be withdrawn. Although farmer unions have welcomed the government’s move, they said their protest would continue until the laws are totally withdrawn and other demands are met.
“It has been a year of unmatched struggle mixed with happiness and sadness. We are fighting and winning. We will fight and win. MSP law is farmers’ right,” senior farmer leader Rakesh Tikait tweeted in Hindi.
Thousands of farmers in tractors arrived at the three protest sites on Friday and many of them flaunting colourful turbans, sunshades, long beards and twirling moustaches danced on the roofs of tractors, distributed sweets and hugged each other to mark the occasion that seemed like a festival.
Samkyukata Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of protesting unions, claimed that lakhs of farmers took part in the assemblies, rallies, marches and chakka jams held in Karnataka, West Bengal, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha among other states.
“This day marked twelve long months of the farmers struggle, with numerous victories which seemed unlikely, and even impossible, with a will and determination to continue to fight for the unfulfilled demands of the farmers,” the SKM said in a statement.
It also said that the farm movement stands as a testimony to the will of the common people to fight against an “unrelenting” government, and for a long time, will be remembered as an example of peaceful “satyagraha” inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian freedom movement.
As farmers started arriving in large numbers on the city borders, the Delhi Traffic Police asked commuters travelling from Ghaziabad towards the national capital to take alternative routes, anticipating traffic gridlock owing to its security arrangements.
“Traffic coming from Ghaziabad towards Delhi side remains heavy due to barricading by local police at roundabout Gazipur Underpass. Commuters are advised to take alternative Vikash Marg/GT Road to Delhi,” the Delhi Traffic Police tweeted.
At Singhu border, one of the largest protest sites on city borders, tractors bedecked with lights and posters rolled through the site and loud Punjabi and Haryanvi celebratory music filled in the air.
Thousands of them flocked to the Singhu border site over the last few days, buoyed by the government announcement to repeal the farms laws, to mark the completion of one year of a dogged protest that saw a long dusty patch of the Delhi-Karnal road between Delhi and Sonepat turned into a makeshift town with bamboo huts and all basic amenities one could think of.
Children and elderly, men and women, carried flags of their farmer unions and raised slogans of victory “Inquilab Zindabad” and “Majdoor Kisan Ekta Zindabad” amid passionate non-stop beating of drums.
The assembly area near the centrestage saw a large gathering like the early days of the protest. The attendees included businessmen, professionals, lawyers, teachers, among others, belonging to families of farmers.
Sarender Singh, 50, from Pataila spent six months at the protest site managing crowd near the centrestage.
“It is a special day. It is like a festival being celebrated. It is after long that such a large number of people have gathered here. We also have Punjabi singer Babbu Mann among us,” he said.
The special day also called for a special breakfast. “Aaj jalebi, pakode, kheer and chole poori bane hai!!” Sarender said enthusiastically.
Some farmers celebrated the farm law protest anniversary by donating blood at a camp organised by an NGO. Sukhdev Bhullar, 42, from Anantpur Sahib said farmers have nourished the protest with the blood. My blood is a tribute to them.
At other two protest sites — Ghazipur and Tikri, hundreds of farmers, including women and children, gathered in large numbers, with many of them bringing along vegetables, sacks of flour and lentils, spices and cooking oil on their tractor-trollies, saying they have come prepared for a long haul.
Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU), an influential farmers’ union from western Uttar Pradesh, has been leading the charge at the Ghazipur border since November last year.
“We have a meeting of the SKM on Saturday and the future course of our action will be decided only after that.
“We have planned a march towards Delhi on November 29, but SKM will take a call about it on Saturday,” BKU spokesperson Saurabh Upadhyay said.
He said, “Supporters in large numbers started reaching the border early Friday morning and by evening we are expecting over 50,000 people at Ghazipur alone.”
SKM in a statement said that the farmers’ body in its letter to the Prime Minister dated November 21, had raised six demands, which include legal guarantee of MSP for all produce based on C2+50% formula, withdrawal of draft “Electricity Amendment Bill, 2020/2021”.