Having sowed wheat and peas for the season, thousands of farmers from Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand left their hometowns to join the protest at the Ghazipur border. With around 1,000 tractor-trolleys arriving over the last five days and tents being set up till the end of the border, the protest is now 10 times bigger, said farmers. A UP police constable said the number of protesters has gone up from around 5,000 to 20,000 in the last 10 days.
Farmers, however, said they faced several obstacles on their way.
Simranjeet Singh (30) from Uttarakhand’s Rudrapur said he had to change his route after police stopped him. He said, “Twenty five of us left Rudrapur at 6 am on December 25. We were going to come via Rampur but we knew we be stopped there too. So we went through Bilaspur, Patwai and Shahabad and got here around midnight.” Singh said he and others from his district have no intentions of heading back until harvest, adding that 6,000 more farmers are expected to reach Ghazipur by December 30-31. Similarly, farmers from UP who had gone back to cut sugarcane and sow wheat are returning as well.
Pyara Singh (55), from Uttar Pradesh’s Bilaspur, said that 60-70 people were stopped near Moradabad and sent back on December 22. He said, “We decided to take another route via Bulandshahr on December 25 and got here the same night. Those who wear turbans were being stopped…”
As the protest grows in size, help pours in from far and wide. On Sunday, Gursewak Singh (23) from UP’s Pilibhit distributed shampoo, soap, winter garments and warm blankets. The medical student turned sewadar said, “I was volunteering at Singhu and Tikri but realised that help was needed here too. So I came here.” He added that over 700 farmers ask for blankets every day.
Volunteers of Khalsa Aid International distributed essentials and managed traffic. Mahender Singh, vice-President of the NGO, said, “We have seen the numbers grow in the last few days. It will only keep growing in size from now…”
To keep the cold at bay, desi geysers were also being distributed by a number of gurdwara committees.
A control room has been set up by the farmers to keep track of items like warm clothes and blankets that are donated and to ensure that those in need get them. Volunteers said they prioritise women and the elderly.
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