Updated: November 27, 2021 10:29:50 am
A student who lost his father to Covid earlier this year, three generations of one family, a farmer carrying over two quintals of orange — as the farm protests on Delhi’s borders completed one year Friday, they were joined by a new set of participants at Singhu.
Many of them, from Punjab and Haryana, were visiting for the first time, in celebration of the “victory” over the three farm laws. After Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent announcement, the laws are set to be repealed in the Parliament session starting Monday.
Amongst the crowd, which sang songs, danced on tractors and held community feasts, was Amin Khan, 20, who had come to the protest site from Patiala, with his uncle and relatives. His father Major Khan, 47 — who retited as a Naik Subedar from the Army after 21 years of service — who came to Singhu on November 26 last year, died of Covid-related complications in May.
“It’s surreal to be here,” said Khan. “Last year, I remember my father and friends leaving for Delhi on trolleys. He was a retired Armyman and a proud krantikari (revolutionary). He supported farmers and took an ‘ardas’ that he won’t return unless the farm laws are repealed. We thought he would come back in a month. When he didn’t, my grandmother went to Singhu to convince him to return home, but he didn’t listen. My cousin’s marriage was fixed in January… but he didn’t want to leave the farmers. I didn’t understand all this then. I understand it now. We are not farmers but my father has always believed in helping others. This was his service to the nation.”
Since his father’s death on May 17, Khan has been supporting the family, including his elder sister and mother. He said the farmers he met Friday hugged him and told him stories of his father. “I am so proud. Papa would have been so happy to see the farmers today.”
Jaspal Singh, 67, a sugarcane and paddy farmer from Adhoi village in Patiala, was at Singhu border with his son Rajdeep, 38, and grandson Agam, 8. The three walked hand-in-hand and spoke to farmers on trolleys, at the main stage and at the langar.
Jaspal said he has been following the farmers’ protests for more than a year. “My friends and I participated in the small rallies that started much before November 26 last year. When farmers moved to Singhu, we came for a few days. I couldn’t get Agam at the time because he was too small. I am happy to be here with my son and grandson. They will learn the struggle everyone faced here,” said Jaspal.
About how long he would be at the protest, Jaspal said they might leave soon “but today is an important day”. “I want them to remember that only farmers were able to fight a successful battle against the Prime Minister and the government.”
Rajdeep, who looks after the family’s farm and other business, said the January 26 violence had made them apprehensive of coming to Singhu initially. “However, we always supported the farmers. With my friends and members of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, I blocked railway junctions in Punjab. We also came here to meet farmers in February-March. Now, I want Agam to feel connected to his roots. We are also farmers and this is our fight,” said Rajdeep.
He added that three-four months ago, there were many more people at the border. “We thought the protest would go on for years and the government wouldn’t budge. Look at Singhu now — it’s a festival here. We have been dancing and eating all day.”
Agam, who is in Class 4 and was wearing an orange turban, said, “I like it here, everyone is sweet. My mother helped me wear the turban. I also bought a ‘kisan ekta’ badge and had jalebis.”
Jagroop Singh, a 27-year-old farmer from Amritsar, brought with him two-three quintals of oranges, donated by friends and relatives. They were busy preparing orange juice for the farmers. By 3 pm, they had used up nearly 1 quintal of oranges and served fruit and juice to hundreds.
“I have been trying to come to Singhu, but it’s difficult for us. We are from a lower-caste family, we don’t have a lot of money and can’t depend on others to run our livelihood. Sometimes, people don’t help us because we are from a different caste,” said Jagroop, whose parents work near a village in Amritsar while his siblings work at private firms in Punjab and Haryana.
He said for the anniversary, he wanted to do “something different”. “So, I bought oranges from my friends and came here with a machine. I have been serving juice to men, women and kids here. There are a lot of people here and they need something to keep themselves going.”
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