Updated: November 20, 2021 8:27:55 am
Ground zero for farm protesters predominantly from Uttar Pradesh, the Ghazipur protest site has, over the past months, become increasingly sparse. But a thinner crowd did not dampen the mood there on Friday, as news came in that the three farm laws were to be repealed.
According to those at the site, Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait, who has been spearheading the protest here, is visiting Maharashtra, while many protesters have returned home for farming season.
By 10 am, jalebis were being distributed as people learnt of the announcement. But many struck a cautious note. Ramveer Singh (75) from Hathras has been protesting at the border since last year. His two sons take care of 35 bighas of land where they grow wheat and bajra. “They called us terrorists, abused us. Why did they agree to our demands now? We were here in winter, summer and now it’s cold again. It’s taken a toll on us but we won’t go anywhere. We have to take every word with caution and see this through. The government has done nothing to gain our trust,” he said.
In January, Ghazipur had become a flashpoint between protesters and authorities as orders were issued to vacate the site. But an emotional appeal by a teary-eyed Tikait, who said he would die instead of moving, went viral on social media and seemed to turn the tide in favour of the protesters. Within hours, thousands of people from Western UP had reached the site, and support poured in from several other quarters. The crucial hours also helped cement Tikait as a prominent farm leader.
As crowds began to swell around UP Gate on Friday, Surendra Pal Singh, a Bulandshahr resident, stood in a corner and began reciting a few lines he had written for the farmers. He sang praises of Tikait, and how the PM’s decision could have come earlier: “I have written 115 poems on farmers — it is my attempt to bring out the pain of the people here. I too am a farmer and keep visiting Ghazipur. I came after I heard the news to be with my brothers. The government is scared; that’s why they have taken it back.”
Like Singhu and Tikri, the protest at Ghazipur has been a sum of its parts. Krishna Singh (19) came to Ghazipur from Uttarakhand last year to serve in the langar. At the peak of the agitation, he recalls feeding nearly 1,500 every day. “Farmers will move only once things are in writing. Till then, people like us will keep serving them,” he said.
Bhagirtanand Baljor (72), another protester, has participated in dozens of farmer movements over decades, including the historic Boat Club protest by Rakesh Tikait’s father Mahendra Singh Tikait: “I was a generational supporter of the BJP. (Current MP) Sanjeev Balyan and other MPs have been like our children as we are from the same area. But this protest has opened our eyes. They betrayed us to please corporates. In the upcoming polls, this sentiment will resonate. We will wait for the Parliament session.”
Some farmers said the crowd could swell since Rakesh Tikait plans to return and address those at Ghazipur. Ghaziabad Police, meanwhile, are keeping a close watch at the site to ensure there’s no law and order situation.
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