Before November 26, a KFC store inside an under-construction mall on GT Karnal Highway was a preferred stoppage for travellers to rest and have a quick bite. Since then, though, the mall compound has become a safe haven for protesting farmers and a storehouse of supplies for langars. And numerous empty shop plots at the Kessel Grand Mall are now makeshift rooms providing relief in the rains to protesters.
As protesters from Punjab started arriving at the Singhu Border more than a month ago, the largely unused mall was one of the places where they began unloading supplies. Since then, dozens of tractors have been parked outside the malls and langars have come up for protesters. Such is the popularity of the location that people use it as a landmark to provide directions.
In the main lobby of the mall, sacks of grains, wheat, atta and rice are piled up. Volunteer groups heading langars nearby say they prefer to keep the food inside since that keeps it safe from the rain. “This place helps us to keep things organised especially when it comes to food. It’s an open area and anyone can come and stay here. It has become even more useful especially in the rains since it’s a covered building. There are tents set up and washrooms outside,” said Bahadur Singh from Major League Federation, which is providing seva at the protest.
Protesters say no one from the mall’s management has approached them so far.
In the rear end of the mall, a row of camping tents have been set up, while a counter has come up where three people note down details of those using the tents. Plastic sheets have been installed as doors on empty shop plots where mattresses have been placed for women and children. During the rain, protesters say, a part of the railing on one of the floors collapsed but no one was hurt.
Currently, nearly 400-500 people can find accommodation in the mall.
The parking lot is used for washing clothes and clotheslines have been installed to dry them. The now defunct KFC drive-through counter is used by people to charge their phones and other devices.
During the first week of the protest, farmers had climbed up five stories of the mall to place pictures of revolutionaries such as Bhagat Singh on the roof.
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