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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

A year of pakka dharnas: Farmers determined to soldier on, BJP leaders say agitation an inconvenience

What brought an end to the entertainment in Bombay was the infamous accident of December 10, 1891, when 26-year-old Lieutenant R N Mansfield of the Royal Naval Reserve decided to ascend for a second time over Bombay.

Written by Raakhi Jagga | Ludhiana |
October 1, 2021 11:57:46 pm
Farmers sit in protest against the farm laws at the Gazipur border. (Express Archive)

FIFTY-NINE-year old Sunita Garg is the general secretary of BJP Punjab who lives in Kotkapura constituency of Faridkot district of Punjab.

On October 1 last year, hundreds of members of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU)-Ugrahan gathered in front of her house to stage a dharna. Garg then didn’t think much of the protests other than it being a minor temporary inconvenience.

Only that the protesters never left.

A year on Friday, the protests outside her house completed one whole year, with the agitators staying put to demand the reversal of three contentious farm laws passed by the Parliament in September last year.

On Friday, Garg said, “I am a political person. I can’t keep the doors of my house shut at all times. People keep on visiting me. However, the protestors sitting outside my house obstruct their way by staging a dharna. They even use the washroom in the verandah of my house, leave disposables plates and glasses near my house after eating langar, and at times even sit in the verandah of my house. They use loudspeakers to make speeches and whenever they have a nationwide program, their strength increases manifold here. Earlier. on average there used to be 300-400 people here daily. The number has dropped to around 50-70 protesters daily now. On days there are special programmes, the attendance here shoots up by three or four times. They have even damaged the windowpanes of my car.”

Garg added that the protesters do not shy away from making personal statements. “Daily they slap my posters pasted on the walls with chappals. They have asked me several times to leave the BJP. But I am not going to leave my party at all, I have been serving this party for the last 25 years.” Garg said, She added that she didn’t decide on the farm laws. “Officials of the government have made several efforts to talk to them. But the protesters are stuck on one point — repealing the three laws. The administration should now at least see that I too have the right to live here. I am tolerating this protest for the past year. How much more of my patience needs to be tested now? ”

Satwant Singh Punia, former national vice chairman of BJP’s Kisan Morcha had a similar tale to narrate. “I live in Hardaspura village in Sangrur. The farmers have been sitting outside my house for the past year. I care for the agitation and want solutions for the demands of the farmers. However, staging a dharna outside my house is not going to achieve that. The agitation disturbs residents of the neighbourhood as well. At times I go to work from the back gate of my house. I am also a farmer and I completely support them. The government is open for discussions but the protesters need to be a little flexible too. They can get a majority of their demands fulfilled if they are a little flexible.”

The farmers have also gheraoed the Amritsar-based house of Rajya Sabha member, Shwait Malik, since October 1 last year, while holding a similar protest for some months at Rampura Phull, outside the house and factory of one Malkhan Singh. Malkhan quit the BJP in January this year, after which the dharna was lifted from outside his house.

At Barnala, BJP district president Yadwinder Shanty is facing a pakka dharna outside his house for the past year and there has been a confrontation between the farmers and BJP workers 2-3 times outside his house.

On October 1, pakka dharnas were started outside the houses of seven BJP leaders by the protesting farmers, with the number gradually increasing to 31 in the course of the year. Overall, there are at least 113 pakka dharna sites where the farm unions of Punjab have been protesting.

On Thursday, at all protest sites, the unions marked the completion of one year of protests and maintained that the BJP was responsible for bringing in the three contentious farm laws and hence their leaders had to be targeted. They however stressed that none of their dharnas are violent in nature or wanted to trouble anyone. “We do not want to sit and sleep on the road as well. The BJP leaders should switch roles with us for one day and they will know what we are going through. It is easy to level false allegations. The government has not budged from its stubborn attitude due to which we have been forced to continue our protests,” said Jagseer Singh, one of the protesters, who hails from Jhumba village of Bathinda.

 

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