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Friday, April 16, 2021

Kheti and andolan: Singhu protesters aim for balance

Several farmers said that they are relying on their children, spouses and siblings back home to take care of the fields. Baljeet Singh (47) from Jalandhar said: "In case my family needs some help, I will go back for two-three days and then return.

Written by Ashna Butani | New Delhi |
Updated: March 3, 2021 8:23:02 am
farmers protesting labelled khalistanisFarmers during their ongoing protest at Singhu Border, in New Delhi, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. (PTI Photo)

The March-April wheat harvesting season has meant protesters at Singhu are trying to find a balance between their responsibility at their fields back home and maintaining strength at the protest site on the Delhi border, or as many put it, between “kheti” and “andolan”.

Wheat, a winter crop, is sown in October and harvested around this time, reaching the peak around the harvest festival of Baisakhi. Wheat harvesting starts in mid-March and peaks around 15-20 April. This is the busiest period for most farmers from Punjab and Haryana. Potato harvesting season is from mid-Feb to mid-March whereas mustard harvesting takes place throughout March. Sugarcane planting, which is just as crucial, takes place from end of February till mid-April.

Said Jarbara Singh (75), a farmer from Patiala: “I have been here a few days and I’ll go back in another five. In the meantime, a few others from my village will come here.” Once he is done with work at home in around 20 days, he will head back for the border, he said, explaining how farmers plan to keep the numbers up at the protest site. The numbers are expected to reduce further between mid-March and mid-April.

Several farmers said that they are relying on their children, spouses and siblings back home to take care of the fields. Baljeet Singh (47) from Jalandhar said: “In case my family needs some help, I will go back for two-three days and then return. We keep in touch on the phone and they keep us updated with the progress.”

Locals said that the number of farmers at the mega protest site had slightly dwindled over the last month, ostensibly owing to the harvest season. Prem Prakash, who runs a general store at the Singhu border, said, “Quite a few farmers from Punjab seem to have gone back… But many from Haryana seem to be joining in.”

This is also apparent at the large langars at Singhu, which are feeding fewer people than they used to. Volunteers, however, said this is because the structure of the protest site has changed. Instead of a few langars near the stage, there are many spread out through the stretch, which means fewer people at each. Surinder Singh (64) from Patiala said each family is planning the next two months in a way that there are people both at the fields and at the protest. In case someone does not have a family member back in the village, neighbours and other residents will come together to tend to his field on a priority basis, he said. “The community sentiment in our villages is very strong; nobody’s fields will be ignored as they are here. In fact, they will be given extra care.”

 

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