At Delhi’s Tikri border Thursday, posters of several activists who have been arrested across the country over the past few years were put up during the farmers’ protest.
Posters of activists Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, poet-activist Varavara Rao, Pinjra Tod members Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita and JNU student Sharjeel Imam and former student Umar Khalid, among others, were held up by protesting farmers to mark ‘Human Rights Day’. All have been booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) in different cases.
While the biggest protest site at present is at the Singhu border, farmers also have been sitting at the Tikri border for two weeks now. The farmers have maintained since the beginning of their protest that political issues, other than those related to farmers’ welfare, will not be raised from the protest stage.
Joginder Singh Ugrahan (75), president, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan), maintained that protesting for those who are incarcerated was not political. “This was done to celebrate Human Rights Day. These are prisoners who fought for the underclasses and their rights. We are also fighting for your rights, which the government is trying to take away from us. It is not a political move at all,” he said.
Asked about the posters, Darshan Pal Singh, president, Krantikari Kisan Union (Punjab), said during a press conference at Singhu border that the event did not amount to politicisation. “Today is International Human Rights day. I think the programme at Tikri was showing cases of human rights violation. We are not politicising the matter. The programme was simply highlighting problems of the present and previous government,” he said.
At Tikri, sociologist Nandini Sundar, who was also at the event, told The Indian Express, “These people who are in jail are also fighting for people’s rights. Stan Swamy fought hard for people’s rights as well, and Sudha for adivasis.”
Protesting farmers said they were against excesses by any government and stood by people who had been wronged. Sukhwinder Singh (28), a farmer from Punjab’s Mansa, said, “These people fought and sacrificed for people’s rights. We support that, as this government is also taking away our rights with these laws.”
Samshed Singh, a farmer from Haryana, said, “These are posters of those who fought for people whose voices were suppressed, and went to jail for it. Likewise, we have also been thrown into uncertainty. We are also fighting for our rights.”