Updated: July 12, 2021 7:46:26 am
Around 9 pm on Saturday, Jagga Singh distributed the last langar meal of the day inside a pandal at Singhu border and sat down in front of a cooler. Minutes later, he heard voices at the further end of the tent – which soon turned into shouts that a fire had broken out.
“No one realised when it began. By the time I could make out what was happening, the fire began to spread, especially on the top of the pandal. There were 8-9 of us inside and we rushed out. The entire tent was up in flames… We had only a few seconds to get out else we would have sustained injuries,” said Jagga, who is among several farmers protesting against the farm laws at the border since last November.
A day after the late-night blaze, protesters sat to take stock of the damage on Sunday afternoon.
The tent had been set up by Baba Harbans Singh ‘Dilli Wale’ a few months ago to distribute langar. It had separate rooms for volunteers, a storeroom for groceries, and another section to keep cylinders and utensils. Farmers said the cylinders also exploded in the fire and quintals of food was destroyed.
“It was a huge loss… we had just got a new storage refrigerator two days ago. Apart from that, our water cooler and geysers were also damaged. Many other items that were an essential part of our food distribution were also destroyed,” said Pupinder Singh, a sevadar.
According to an official from Haryana Police, a call about the fire was received at 9 pm. “We immediately informed the fire services and multiple tenders rushed to the spot. It appears to be accidental fire and no complaint has been filed. No one was injured, and the blaze was doused in time,” said the official.
Protesters said the langar had been offering meals to thousands of people in the vicinity, including locals. “I read on my phone that the tent had caught fire… All of us come here for food almost daily. This has been a blessing for us and to see them (farmers) go through this is very painful,” said Sudha, a Sonepat resident.
Despite the losses, farmers are gearing up for repairs and claim that the langar will be up and running in two-three days. “We will not be disheartened. The structure is already being re-built and other equipment will also come to us. There are many challenges at the protest site, and we will overcome them all,” said Jagga.
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