Kashmir Singh from Punjab’s Ferozepur and J Arul from Tamil Nadu’s Thiruvallur did not understand a word they said to each other backstage at Singhu border but the wide smiles and nods they exchanged were enough to forge a friendship. Meanwhile, Chandu Raut (57) from Maharashtra’s Nagpur sported a black turban that a Sikh protester tied on his head, as he spoke about the 2018 Kisan march from Nashik to Mumbai — a distance of around 200 km that he covered on foot.
On Thursday, farmers from Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra took the stage, albeit briefly, in a show of solidarity.
“At least 25 of us, who are members of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) in Tamil Nadu, reached Delhi Wednesday, to show our support to our brothers from Punjab and Haryana. This is a continuing struggle for all farmers of the country,” said Arul, who is the state committee member of AIKS in Thiruvallur district.
In the afternoon, Arul addressed protesters in Tamil — on a stage that has mostly seen speeches in Punjabi – which was met with applause from protesters. “I said we are with them in this struggle. When we go back home, we will hold similar protests on December 29,” he said.
Earlier, the men were staying at a lodge near Singhu. On Thursday morning, they moved to the trolleys of farmers from Punjab’s Moga. “We are able to communicate with each other via Google Translate,” said P Balaji (26). His parents are farmers in Tamil Nadu and they grow sugarcane and rice.
Around 2,000 farmers from Maharashtra, who started their march from Nashik three days ago in support of the ongoing protests in the capital, are expected to reach Shahjahanpur in Rajasthan — 130 km away from Delhi — by Friday afternoon, where they will join other protesting farmers.
Meanwhile, around 12 members from a farmers’ union in Maharashtra reached Singhu Wednesday to represent the 2,000 farmers. Manohar Muley, state committee member of Maharashtra Rajya Khet Mazdoor Union, from Nagpur, said, “While in Nagpur, we read about the cold wave in Delhi… No one mentioned how warm the protest site is because of our farmers from Punjab and Haryana.”
Muley, who also sported a turban like Raut, went on stage in the afternoon and spoke about the support to the protests by farmers from Maharashtra.
He said, “I walked from Nashik to Mumbai in 2018 and slept on the roads, in fields… Here, there are so many arrangements. We are here for eight days, and will most likely send another group later.”
Accompanying Muley and Raut was Digambar Diwate (44), a teacher from Maharashtra’s Ramtek district, whose parents are farmers. He said, “The government is trying to suppress farmers — be it those from Punjab or Maharashtra. We reached Singhu on Wednesday and have done three rallies today.”
Apart from the unions from Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, Tumul Katara (47) from Gujarat’s Vadodara, who is a member of the All India Democratic Youth Organisation, and Sriram Sen (24), a member of the All India Democratic Students, from Madhya Pradesh’s Guna, were at the protest.
“These farm laws are anti-farmers and anti-people. I am not a farmer but this is a cause everyone must fight. At least 15 of us have come from Gujarat, and we will leave Sunday,” said Katara.
Sen, whose parents are farmers, said he’s been at the border since December 8 and is staying in a Punjab farmer’s trolley. “I am here as long as the farmers are here. There’s no going back now,” he said.