Updated: February 17, 2021 8:20:33 am
With sugarcane planting season set to begin in Uttar Pradesh villages, a number of protesters from Ghazipur have left for their homes, though those left behind insist this is temporary and the protest will return to its former size once planting is over.
Signs of the thinning crowd are evident at a langar started by Kar Sewa, Amritsar, which currently feeds around 4,000-5,000 protesters. Kamaldeep Singh (28), a farmer from Muzaffarnagar, who volunteers at the langar, said, “Earlier, around 15,000-16,000 people would come to eat here.”
“The weather has changed and people are preparing for summer. Many have also returned to their villages so they can attend mahapanchayats. However, many have left behind their tractors; their ration. They keep coming back and the numbers keep fluctuating.”
Harpreet Singh (35), a farmer from Lakhimpur Kheri district, said many people from his village are going to arrive at the site in the next few days. “I am also going back for the mahapanchayat. It is important to attend because many important things are discussed there, such as the future of this protest. We are now discussing our plans for the ‘rail roko andolan’ on February 18.”
Navjot Singh (23), who is from the same district, said he might have to go to his village to help his family plant sugarcane. “If I go back, five others from my village will come to the site,” he declared.
Police posted at the border said the number of protesters has decreased in the last 10 days. They pointed out that the protest site currently spans over 1.5-2 km. The area in front of the UP Gate police chowki, which was previously packed with tents and trolleys, now has a handful of tents in patches.
The stores at the border see fewer customers too. Tijender Singh (27), a volunteer at a general store started by Farmer Sewa Society, said, “Most people have gone back for a few days because of the panchayats in their villages. They will all return and in larger numbers.”
Farmers added that many have returned home as they are preparing for the change in season. While some are expected to return to the protest site with fans for their tents, others are getting coolers and generators.
A volunteer at a langar received a deep freezer from a well-wisher on Monday morning. He said the site will soon be festooned with coolers and more such freezers to store water, milk and other perishables.
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