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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Farmers leave today: Goodbye, Singhu

From taking bamboo sheds back home to build a ‘museum’ to figuring out logistics of feeding people on the way, the border protest site was buzzing on Friday.

Written by Sukrita Baruah | New Delhi |
Updated: December 11, 2021 8:49:59 am
(L-R) Saranjeet Kaur from Karnal and Gursharan Kaur from Muktsar Sahib, who met 10 months ago at Singhu, part ways with a promise to keep in touch. (Photo: Abhinav Saha)

A day before protesting farmers head home on December 11, preparations to leave behind the sprawling Singhu border protest site after more than a year were overwrought with emotion.

Ever since the protest site came up at Delhi’s border with Haryana on GT Karnal Road in November 2020, protesters have set up makeshift homes on that highway, stocked with all amenities required to weather the seasons.

Scene from Singhu Farmers spend their last night at the protest site — some sleeping in the open as tents have been dismantled — before they head home on Saturday. (Photo: Abhinav Saha)

On Friday, Preetpal Singh (61) helped his fellow villagers load rows of bamboo, which formed the walls of their hut at Singhu, into a trolley. “I’m getting the feeling one gets when they’re leaving home for a long time,” he said. They will leave for their village in Punjab’s Fatehgarh Sahib district on Saturday morning.

“We had built this hut for protesters from our village this summer. At first, we thought we would leave the materials behind here, but our families told us we shouldn’t do that. So now we’ve decided that we’ll take all this material back to the village, rebuild the hut there and put up photos from the protest and of us doing our duties during the last year. Our younger generations will be able to see how we lived and struggled during this historic movement. There is a nice park in our gurdwara, we might do it there,” he said.

Around three months ago, protesters from Ichhewal village in Patiala had built two ‘houses’ with metal frames on a divider on the highway, which they were busy dismantling on Friday.

“A trolley came from our village yesterday to help us carry everything home. We had bought all the metal with collections from our village, so all the material will go to our gurdwara,” said Jasmer Singh (55).

The biggest structure at the site is the over 200-feet-long metal shed set up at the main protest stage. According to Deep Khatri, a coordinator, this will be dismantled over the next few days, its parts sold for the best offer, and that the money will be submitted to the kisan morcha.

Even as thousands of farmers were busy packing their belongings, those who have been cooking and distributing food at langars planned how to ensure protesters are fed on their way home.

A group from Karnal, including Satinder Singh (35), has been preparing and distributing makki ki roti and sarson ka saag since last year. They completed packing away all their supplies by early Friday evening.

Farmers said bigger structures like the main stage area will take one-two days to be dismantled completely. Those organising the langars will be the last to leave. (Photo: Abhinav Saha)

“We’re leaving this evening and setting up a langar at Karnal for tomorrow afternoon. Farmers who leave from here at 9 am tomorrow will reach Karnal at 12 or 1 pm and can have lunch there,” he said. Their supplies, including three water tanks, fans and hut material, will go to their local gurdwara.

The sewaks from Dera Baba Jagtar Singh in Tarn Taran, which has been running one of the biggest langars at Singhu, set up another langar at Shahabad in Haryana on Friday for farmers heading home. The protesters from Biradwal village in Patiala, who have also been running a langar at the site, have decided not to leave before Saturday evening. “We want to be around so that protesters who leave later in the day will have food to eat. Then we’ll clear up everything, leave the place as it was when we first came, and start our journey,” said Harbans Singh (59).

While everyone prepared to leave, some arrived at Singhu on Friday to say their final goodbyes. Jagdish Dhillon (61) arrived from Baroda village in Gohana, along with 14 others, with milk and lassi for their fellow protesters.

“We made so many friends from Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan. We have come to do sewa for them for one last time and to say bye-bye. Hum yahaan sangharsh ke time the, agar hum khushi ke time nahi hote woh badi mayoosi ki baat hoti,” he said.

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