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Friday, March 05, 2021

Delhi: Protesters at Narela road thin out, farmers say more to arrive on Feb 22

“There are still many protesters on the main road, but the crowd has reduced in the last 10-15 days. Earlier, there was no space to drive our autos on this road. That is not the case anymore," Said Naveen (22), an auto driver.

Written by Ashna Butani | New Delhi |
Updated: February 15, 2021 4:24:39 am
At Narela Road near Singhu, Sunday. (Photo: Gajendra Yadav)

Narela Road near the Singhu border, which had tractors parked end to end earlier, has emptied out over the past few days. Police posted at the site said the number of protesters on the road has come down to 30-40% of what it was earlier. However, farmers said this is temporary and more protesters are set to reach the border on February 22.

Locals working in the area said the numbers have reduced gradually since January 26. Said Naveen (22), an auto driver, “There are still many protesters on the main road, but the crowd has reduced in the last 10-15 days. Earlier, there was no space to drive our autos on this road. That is not the case anymore.”

However, spirits of farmers who have stayed put at the spot still ran high. Jaspaal Singh (30) from Punjab’s Moga district, who has been at the border since the protests started, said a few farmers might have gone home for personal reasons. “This does not mean that the protest has lost its strength. It is only getting stronger… only one person from each family is here now, another nine people are waiting. When they are called, they will come too,” he said.

Farmers said those who came solely to participate in the Republic Day parade have gone home. A few went home to tend to their fields, while others are caught up with village fairs.

Swaran Singh (37), also from Moga, visited the border for the first time this weekend with his brother and cousin and stayed in a tractor parked on Narela road. He said, “It might look like the numbers have fallen but in reality, it is going to get bigger. I work as a supervisor in a bank. All my juniors have taken leave to visit the protests at some point. I am currently waiting for my 10-day leave to get sanctioned so that I can stay at the borders for longer.”

His brother Gurjant Singh (42), who works as a production officer, said, “We have bought fans and mosquito nets with us to distribute since summer is approaching…” He added that around 1,000 tractors will fill up the road on February 22.

The dip in the number of protesters is also reflected at the langars. Gurvinder Singh (32), a volunteer at a langar set up by Gurdwara Sant Baba Hazara Singh Nikke Ghuman, said, “There have been days when we have fed 10,000 people. At present, around 3,000 people come to eat.” Till a few days ago, he estimated that around 5,000-6,000 protesters would eat at the langar.

Ravinder Kaur, a member of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, said the nature of the protests have changed and many langars have been set up further down the road. “Earlier, we would feed 10,000-20,000 people for a meal. Now, a minimum of 4,000-5,000 protesters come to the langar for one meal,” she said.

However, Darshan Pal from the Samyukta Kisan Morcha said, “The numbers have not decreased at the Singhu border… People have moved towards the back of the protest. Protesters are continuing to come in.”

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