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Friday, January 21, 2022

At Singhu border: ‘fight will continue… don’t feel like going back’

When the leaders finally announced that the agitation was suspended, celebrations began with protesters climbing atop tractors and dancing, and small groups breaking into song, all soaking in the “victory”.

Written by Pavneet Singh Chadha | New Delhi |
Updated: December 10, 2021 12:11:52 pm
Protesting farmers and their families celebrate at Delhi’s Tikri border on Thursday. (Express photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

Hours before the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) met at the Singhu border Thursday to take a decision on the agitation, the farmers knew what was coming. They started to pack up, pulling down the tarpaulin sheets that covered their tractor trolleys.

With the Government agreeing to the SKM’s key demands, everyone at the protest site at the centre of the year-long agitation against the farm laws knew it was time to return home.

When the leaders finally announced that the agitation was suspended, celebrations began with protesters climbing atop tractors and dancing, and small groups breaking into song, all soaking in the “victory”.

By Thursday evening, convoys of tractor trolleys and tanker trucks had started leaving Singhu amid tearful farewells and memories of a “historic protest”.

“This is the victory of the resolve and perseverance of farmers. But the movement is not over. The fight will continue. I do not feel like going back…I have received so much love here,” said Ravinder Singh of Charrian village in Punjab’s Ropar, who has been a part of the protest here for several months.

Standing next to his tractor, Ravinder claimed that on November 27, he was part of the first wave of protesters in a cavalcade of tractor trolleys that reached the Burari ground on the way to Ramlila Maidan in Delhi. “I suffered an injury during a lathicharge on our way from Punjab. We managed to cross several barricades on our trolleys, but police forced us to enter the ground in Burari. Two months of siege followed in Burari after that. The police even impounded my tractor,” he said.

Today, a message in Punjabi on the front of his tractor reads: “First fighting warrior to show Delhi its might”. “I call it the first warrior as it was among the first convoys that breached the security in Delhi,” he said.

At Singhu border, Thursday. (Gajendra Yadav)

Dilbar Singh, 25, from Shadipur in Jalandhar, spent Thursday morning dismantling seven layers of tarpaulin and thermocol sheets from his makeshift tent. “Victory was achieved on the day the farm Bills were appealed. We were just waiting for a formal acceptance of demands, which happened yesterday. Since then, the mood has been jubilant,” he said.

Jasvir Kaur, 70, from Khang in Patiala, is a member of the Kirti Kisan Union, and has been volunteering at the community kitchen set up by her village at Singhu since February. She was doing “langar sewa” when a member of her union informed her of the SKM’s decision to suspend the agitation.

“I don’t feel like going back. I arrived here with people from our village last year. I did not imagine the agitation would last for so long. Initially, it was extremely difficult to adapt from a life of comfort to sitting here on the roads in extreme weather conditions. During the January 26 incident (when a section of protesters stormed Red Fort), there was fear that the Army or paramilitary forces may be deployed. A lot of farmers died for this victory…,” she said, breaking down.

“But we made sure that we did our duty. The fight for our land and rights was bigger than these hardships. I am yet to pack my belongings…We will leave on Saturday after serving everyone at the langar for the last time,” said Kaur.

A short walk away, Ajit Pal Singh, 40, stood calmly outside his tent, ‘Mitti Aid’, near the main stage. For over half-an-hour, he thanked several volunteers for their contribution in the agitation, embracing and clicking pictures, bidding farewell.

Singh, a former event manager hailing from Jhaj village in Anandpur Sahib district, has “no background” in farming. Walking for 12 days with a group of 37 protesters, he had come to Singhu on November 15 last year, “moved by the plight of farmers, hoping to return after a few days”.

After polishing shoes for a few months, Singh set up a “massage langar”, especially to help ageing farmers at the site.

“I will be the last volunteer to leave. My sewa will continue till the last protester at Singhu leaves. Then, I shall pack my bags. It will take 6-7 days. I will return the same way I arrived here…I will walk to Anandpur Sahib and then return home,” Singh said.

Sukhmani, 32, a former accountant from Morinda in Mohali, got on a bus to Singhu last year, vowing only to return when the laws were repealed. She had been volunteering at the main stage since and has never returned home. When she heard that the Government had agreed to all their demands, she broke down.

“I feel happy and a bit sad. I am happy that I shall be returning home and seeing my parents after a long time. At the same time, in one year…everyone has become a family here. A lot of tears were shed when the formal announcement to suspend the protest was made,” she said.

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