January 30, 2021 4:50:03 am
NAKUL CHAUDHARY parked his tractor near the Ghazipur protest site’s main stage, whipped out a phone from his pocket and went live on Facebook: “Nand Kishor Gurjar, please pay us a visit today. We want to meet you since we couldn’t meet last evening. The youth of Baghpat are eager to talk to you.”
Gurjar, BJP’s Loni MLA, had turned up at the protest site Thursday evening with a number of party workers and allegedly threatened the protesters, asking them to clear the area. And Nakul, a resident of Amrala village in Ghaziabad district, was struggling to control his anger. “Now I regret returning home after the Republic Day kisan march. This time, we are not going back. They will have to pay the price of hooliganism,” he said.
That, in a nutshell, was Ghazipur Friday. Young, loud and angry — and determined to “avenge” the “tears” shed by Rakesh Tikait, the chief of Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) and face of the protests at Ghazipur, which is one of the three main sites of the agitation at Delhi’s borders against the Centre’s new farm laws.
The visuals of Tikait breaking down while criticising the district administration’s order asking protesters to vacate appeared to have turned the tide for the agitation after the Republic Day violence. “For the BJP, only those Hindus who are their members are patriots, everyone else is a traitor. Now we want their MLA to come and meet us,” said Ankur Chaudhary, a protester.
In videos that went viral from UP to Haryana and Punjab Thursday night, Tikait had, in an emotional outburst, alleged a “conspiracy against farmers” and that “BJP’s people have been posted along the road to attack” the protesters.
The day after, youths arrived in the hundreds in convoys of cars and tractors through the day, pushing the administration on the backfoot.
By Friday morning, many security personnel had left the site. “The UP government has said from the beginning that we will find a solution by talking to farmers. Everything so far has been done in accordance with it. Tightening of security yesterday or today was done to see that no rowdy element enters into the protest to disturb the atmosphere,” said UP ADG (Law & Order) Prashant Kumar.
Kulveer Singh, a resident of Moradabad, was among those who reached in the morning. “Around midnight I woke up and checked the phone and saw the video clip. I felt suffocated and immediately rode out on my scooter,” he said.
Along with protesters came leaders of many political parties, including the RLD, AAP, SAD and the Congress. RLD vice-president Jayant Chaudhary was among the first to arrive along with party workers. He met Tikait and said the RLD stands in solidarity with the farmers as “citizens of this country”. “The way he (Tikait) broke down last night has moved people to tears,” he said.
“We voted for the BJP in the name of Narendra Modi over the past few years. But now, we realise that we betrayed the legacy of Chaudhary (Charan Singh) sahab,” said Ashok Kumar, a farmer from Amroha.
At the same time, the Kisan Ekta Morcha tried to ensure that the “non-political” image of the movement does not get compromised. When Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia came, Tikait announced that the AAP leader has assured he won’t share the stage to “honour the non-political nature of the movement”.
The stage adorns the images of former Prime Minister Chaudhary Charan Singh, the region’s tallest farmer leader, and freedom fighters Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, Sukhdev, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and Chadrashekhar Azad.
Later in the day, SAD leader Manjinder Singh Sirsa, Congress leader Deepender Singh Hooda, UP Congress chief Ajay Kumar Lallu and Bhim Army chief Chandrashekar reached the venue. Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav also addressed protesters.
Along the highway, meanwhile, fresh tents came up to shelter the new arrivals. New langars also sprung up. Many farmers carried water in a range of containers, responding to Tikait’s appeal last night that he won’t touch water unless “my villagers bring it for me”.
As the crowd swelled — many students from the region, including Delhi, also turned up — organisers struggled to maintain order on the dais. At one point, an announcement was made from the stage that it might collapse and volunteers need to quickly vacate it.
The instruction put Vaibhav, one of the volunteers, in a fix. “Not just protesters, even many volunteers had left. They are returning but we did not anticipate this rush. And the farmers from Muzaffarnagar have not even arrived yet,” he said.
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