Updated: December 11, 2021 8:55:37 pm
Punjab Singh (36) had come to the Singhu border from Haryana in November last year. On Friday, he stood in front of the main stage and watched as farmers danced and celebrated the night before they would leave the site. “Of course, I will miss my brothers here,” he said before joining the crowd for one last victory dance.
On November 26 last year, the first batch of farmers had arrived from Punjab and Haryana for a sit-in protest at Singhu against the three farm laws. They had made it clear they would leave only once the laws were rolled back.
In many ways, the last night at Singhu resembled the first nights of the protests – several people could be seen sleeping in the open as tents had been brought down, while tractor trolleys packed with clothes, utensils and bamboo sticks slowly drove through the narrow road.
Every 100 metres, a tractor with glowing LED lights and a speaker was visible. In front of each vehicle, groups of people broke into impromptu dances.
Harvinder Singh (42) from Jalandhar watched the celebrations from a distance. He sat in his wheelchair, beaming, as he waited for his friend to steer him into the crowd for a closer look. “We are going home with our heads held high. It is a very emotional moment for us. There is joy and celebration but there is also grief in our hearts for the lives lost in the process. Personally, it was not easy for me because being in a wheelchair has its difficulties. But my brothers were there for me throughout. It’s a memory of a lifetime,” he said.
By 10 pm, the main stage of the protest, where SKM leaders and other speakers had addressed the crowd from, was removed. It was mutually decided by farmers that the semi-permanent structures made of bamboo and sticks would be the first to be removed followed by those made with steel.
The langars would be the last to vacate as they wanted to ensure even the last person gets a meal.
At 10.30 pm, Patiala resident Buta Singh (40) was seen stirring a boiling pot of dal as the crowd sat down for a meal. Singh, who has fed thousands in the last few months, said he will not leave till everyone else does: “Our task is to give food to everyone. We know for a fact that some people will have to stay behind to clean up. We will feed them till the end. Our demands have been met so our sewa has been successful. We will come again if we are needed.”
Against the backdrop of fireworks in the December sky, many went around gathering their belongings. Yellow plastic sheets that protected them from the rain and cold were folded and trolleys were re-attached to tractors.
As the night progressed, the traffic at Kundli became denser as many trolleys packed with items began heading home. Inside, farmers were seen sleeping, sharing blankets and mattresses.
For those still up and about, there was freshly brewed tea at the langars. Earlier, there would be a night vigil to ensure no anti-social elements tried to disturb the peace; now, many could not sleep due to the excitement of a successful movement and the enthusiasm of returning home.
“I slept for a few hours and now I am up again. I do not want to miss a single minute of this. What we have is history. In the morning we will all be gone. I will probably go and help at the langars because they will be preparing the morning tea for everyone. Words cannot describe what I am feeling,” said Jatinder Singh (32) from Jalandhar.
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