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Saturday, November 27, 2021

Farm laws repealed: Some faces of the agitation

On the call of BKU leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni, 62, when Haryana farmers undertook a tractor march against three farm ordinances on July 20, 2020, no one had thought this would become such a big issue that one day the Modi government would have to announce its withdrawal.

Written by Anju Agnihotri Chaba |
Updated: November 20, 2021 9:19:14 am
Gurnam Singh Chaduni, Jagmohan Singh, Joginder Singh Ugrahan, and Dr Darshan Pal

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced the repeal of the three contentious farm laws, which had witnessed protests from farmers, mainly from Punjab and Haryana, on the borders of Delhi for more than a year.

A look at some faces of the agitation

Gurnam Singh Chaduni, President, BKU

On the call of BKU leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni, 62, when Haryana farmers undertook a tractor march against three farm ordinances on July 20, 2020, nobody had thought that this would become such a big issue that one day the Modi government would have to announce its withdrawal. However, Chaduni soon realised that it was a do-or-die battle and mostly remained on the roads to mobilise farmers from every corner of Haryana. With the Centre standing firm on not repealing the farm laws for nearly one year, Chaduni had said, “I am not sure our agitation would achieve this, but I believe the farmers now see the protest as an “integral part” of their lives”. He had stated: “This agitation will ruin the BJP… it is indicative of a change.” He later emerged as a notable leader in Punjab too.

Jagmohan Singh, General Secretary, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Dakaunda)

Well versed with farm policies, General Secretary of Bharatiya Kisan Union (Dakaunda) Jagmohan Singh, is considered one of the “think tanks” of the movement. Jagmohan, who is in his 60s, became a household face around 30 years ago when he joined the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) Ekta in 1993 leaving a well-paying government job. A postgraduate in Acupuncture therapy, Jagmohan entered mainstream activism when he was a teenager. He got into social service when he was working with allopathic doctors in Patiala. He left his native place in Ferozepur district and shifted to Patiala to serve the people. He is trusted not only by his own union members but is also looked up to by other unions for chalking out any programme involving the agitation.

Joginder Singh Ugrahan, President, Punjab Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) (Ugrahan)

Seventy-five-year-old Joginder Singh Ugrahan is an ex-Army man who holds the reign of the biggest farmer union of Punjab – Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) (Ugrahan). He joined the Army in 1975 but had to leave due to some family problems and started working in his fields. He soon realised how the farmers are exploited and decided to take part in protests and voiced his dissent at several people. After working with various organisations, including Naujwan Bharat Sabha, BKU Lakhowal, BKU Rajewal, BKU Ekta of Pishaura Singh Sidhupur from 1982 to 2002, he formed his separate union – BKU Ugrahan in 2002. His union challenged several anti-farm policies and the Punjab government was forced to notify a ban on kurkis or attachment of farmers’ land by banks in the event of their defaulting on loan payments.

A farmer celebrates the repeal of the farm laws, at the Singhu border on Friday. (Express Photo: Praveen Khanna)

Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan, General Secretary, BKU Ugrahan

Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan, 70, had started taking part in farm agitations with his father. He was appointed a government teacher in 1972 but despite being a permanent teacher, he joined protests led by temporary teachers in 1978 and even went to jail for 75 days. He was jailed again in 1992 after protesting in Chandigarh for 15 days. He joined BKU’s protests and raised his voice against former CM Beant Singh government’s decision to doubled the rates of Tubewell motors, which was later rolled back. In 1997-98 when cases of farmer suicides had started rising, he resigned from his teacher’s job and started working for the cause of the farmers.

Dr Darshan Pal, President, Krantikari Kisan Union Punjab

Dr Darshan Pal, 70, is considered among the important farmer leaders of Punjab, who is quite active in AIKSCC. His outfit is among the 10 most active farm organisations in the state. A MBBS, MD (Anesthesia), PCMS doctor, he took pre-mature retirement from his Punjab Civil Medical Service (PCMS) job and became an agriculturist as his family owned 15 acres of land. He started participating in farmers’ programmes in 2007 and joined the BKU. In 2016, when Krantikari Kisan Union was formed, he became its member and now during Covid-19 pandemic, he was appointed the president of the union. “I wanted to serve farmers of the state and became a farm activist myself,” he said. His union is quite active in half a dozen districts of the Malwa region of the state.

Police personnel deployed near Ghazipur site. (Amit Mehra )

Satnam Singh Pannu, President, Kisan Mazdoor Sangarsh Committee Punjab

Satnam Singh Pannu, 65, founded the union in 2000 when the then SAD-BJP government had refused to lift paddy from. Through his agitation, he managed to get the crop lifted and saved the farmers from running into losses. His union is not active in 10 districts, including four in Majha region, and three each in Doaba and Malwa regions.

Jagsir Singh, district committee member, BKU Ugrahan (Bathinda)

Jagsir Singh, 47, joined the union over 3 years back, and is considered a highly dedicated member. He has been instrumental in constituting several village-level units of the union, mobilising farmers for protests, and motivating the youth to come forward for the cause of the farming crisis. A farmer himself, Singh owns 9 acres land at village Jhumba, but he had given it on the lease so that he could work full time for farmers’ cause. He owns a grocery shop in his village where he has also made an office to attend the grievances of the farmers. “I have to move a lot in my district as well as outside the district in connection with protests. I do not mind if my shop is closed for a week or 10 days as the work for farmers is the most important work for me. I am thankful to my family for not stopping me for this work,” he said.

Farmers celebrating in Punjab’s Ludhiana

Mahinder Singh, District General Secretary, Mansa (BKU Dakaunda)

Mahinder Singh, 50, is a farm activist for the past 23 years. He has 18 cases against him in connection with farmers’ protests like rail rook, jail bharo, because of which he was lodged at nine different jails, including at Delhi. A matriculate and a farmer himself, he along with his two brothers is doing farming on 21 acres land of the family at his native village Bhiani Bagha in district Mansa. He is at the forefront of every agitation of the farmers. “My life is for farmers and it does not matter even if I am booked in 100 cases,” he told The Indian Express.

Bhupinder Singh Longowal, State Convener of Youth Wing, Kirti Kisan Union

Longowal, 35, Post Graduate in Political Science, has been actively involved in protests since his students’ days and was a member of the Punjab Students’ Union and Nuajwan Bharat Sabha before joining it. Bhupinder’s rapport with students played a pivotal role in the formation of the “youth units” of the union. He had mobilised the youth to join farm protests.

Balbir Singh Rajewal, President, BKU (Rajewal)

One of the main farmer organisations of Punjab, this union is more active in Ludhiana, Khanna, Ropar and Mohali districts. EarlierRajewal, 70, was with Bharatiya Kisan Union of Ajmer Singh Lakhowal then it got separated from Lakhowal around three decades ago and formed a separate organisation. Rajewal’s family is also in Arhtiya (commission Agent) business.

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