Updated: January 30, 2021 8:05:02 am
Hours after Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait made an emotional appeal at Ghazipur, thousands of farmers and political leaders reached Muzaffarnagar, more than 200 km away, for a mahapanchayat in solidarity on Friday morning. Naresh Tikait, his brother, told The Indian Express: “I was shocked when I saw him crying. The Home Minister and his police are trying to scare him and want him arrested. I won’t let that happen. I was going to leave for Ghazipur last night but then I got to know that farmers from different villages want to meet me and support the Tikaits.”
After a video of the appeal circulated Thursday night, farmers from Uttarakhand, Haryana and different parts of Uttar Pradesh reached the Government Inter College ground in Muzaffarnagar to attend the mahapanchayat. According to police estimates, more than 10,000 people came in tractors and jeeps, raising slogans such as “Aansu ka badla khoon se” and “Jo na maane jhande se, woh maanega dande se”.
Satender Goyala, a sugarcane farmer from Soram village, said he came to Muzaffarnagar with 1,000 other farmers from his village. “I know the clashes at Red Fort were unfortunate but we know Tikait. He would never insult the national flag. Tikait is like my brother; I can’t see him like this. We will go to Ghazipur if Naresh asks us to.”
Heavy police deployment was seen outside the ground and on the streets. Leaders from the Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Lok Dal, Congress and Aam Aadmi Party also joined the mahapanchayat, pledging to join the protest.
Farmers at the ground spoke about Tikait’s father, Mahendra Singh Tikait, among India’s tallest farm leaders and former president of BKU.
Rajbeer Singh, a farmer from Sisauli, said, “My father and I have known the Tikaits for ages. My father participated in the protests with Mahendra ji in the 1980s. I won’t let the BJP insult my brother. We are ready to go to Delhi. We are anyway against these farm laws. Tikait has been fighting alone for two months now. We won’t let him go down.”
Jayant Chaudhary, former PM Charan Singh’s grandson, also came to the stage and spoke about Tikait.
He said the government should stop labeling farmers as “anti-nationals” and “terrorists”. Farmers and locals cheered as he hugged Naresh.
While several leaders said they were ready to leave for Delhi, Naresh told the farmers to “wait” and “move to Delhi in small groups”.
Chaudhary Gulshan Rod, a farmer from Uttarakhand’s Haridwar, said, “More than 80 tractors left from our city to join this meeting. We are with Tikait. We saw his tears; he was being tortured and intimidated. These officials want to scare farmers. We will fight them back. We will stand along with farmers from Punjab, Haryana and UP.”
After the five-hour mahapanchayat, the farmers were sent back and told they would soon be required for the movement. They said they will wait for that call.