Updated: February 19, 2021 11:08:29 am
As farmers Thursday squatted on railway tracks as part of the four-hour ‘rail roko’ protest against the Centre’s three farm laws, the agitation at several places in Haryana was led by women, a big change for a state known for its patriarchal set up of the society.
The participation of women was especially impressive in Jind district, which is dominated by khap panchayats. According to police, the movement of trains was halted at 45 places in Haryana with at seven places in Jind alone.
Apart from Jind, Sonipat, Sirsa and Fatehabad were most hit. While police were deployed near the protest sites, the agitation remained peaceful even as the railways had already rescheduled the timings of the trains in view of the rail roko called by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella body of farmer unions which is spearheading the agitation against the farm laws.
At village Barsola of Jind, more than 1,000 women from neighbouring villages reached the railway tracks to join their male counterparts. They squatted on the Jind-Delhi railway line from 12 noon to 4 pm. The protest was led by Krishna Devi, a 70-year woman from Barsola. The women had reached the venue in tractor-trolleys raising slogans against the government and in favour of farmers’ unity.
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“Women are joining men at every front. We will keep participating in the agitation till the three laws are repealed. The khap panchayats that earlier used to keep women at the back row, now want them to take the front seat. With this agitation, the women too will get freedom (from certain customs) like the purdah system,” said Sikkim Nain, president of BKU’s women wing in Jind.
At village Ismaila in Rohtak district, the women were spotted dancing to folk songs at the Rohtak-Delhi railway line.
The farm outfits had deployed their volunteers to prevent any damage to the public property. The volunteers caught a drunk man at Barsola railway station when he tried to throw stones at a moving train. Before moving to their homes after the protest ended, a five-member delegation of farm leaders met the officials at Barsola railway station and urged them to visit the spot to check if everything was in order. In a video message, Haryana BKU leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni had urged the farmers to keep the event peaceful. “Don’t indulge in vandalism anywhere. We don’t have to resort to stone pelting even if police commit atrocities on us. We have to tolerate police lathicharge and water cannons.” he said.
The overwhelming response to the ‘rail roko’ has come as a dampener for BJP-JJP leaders who were hoping that the agitation against the agri laws will fizzle out with time. Nearly three months after farmers shifted to multiple points at Delhi border, the support for the agitation is growing and spreading to new areas.
With no end in sight to the agitation, the farmer leaders have now decided to send the farmers to the dharna venues in Haryana and Delhi borders in rotation. A khap leader from Jind Azad Palwa said, “15 farmers from every village will go to the toll plazas daily to stage dharnas there. Their turn will come again after a week. The farmers going to Delhi borders will stay there for a week before another group replaces them.”
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