February 9, 2021 11:18:09 pm
A photo of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait weeping on the evening of January 28 was a turning point in farmers’ protests against the Centre’s three agricultural laws pushed through Parliament last September. It re-energised the protest just as it was flagging in the aftermath of the Republic Day violence in Delhi and a planned crackdown at the Ghazipur demonstration site.
Tikait’s son Charan Singh and nephew Gaurav, who is BKU national president Naresh Tikait’s son, were behind the photo that helped the farmers’ stir out of its nadir and revitalised it. The brothers not only played a crucial role by ensuring that the photo of an emotional Rakesh Tikait reaches the maximum number of farmers through social media platforms and WhatsApp, but were also behind mobilising more than 10,000 farmers and political leaders for the massive mahapanchayat held in Muzzafarnagar the following day.
“Gaurav bhai and I were at the Ghazipur border with my father on January 28 when my tauji [uncle Naresh Tikait] declared at a meeting with farmers at our native place Sisauli [in Muzzafarnagar] that there was no point in continuing the agitation when the police have turned against peasants at the behest of the state and the government at the Centre. Father was deeply hurt by the decision and had an emotional burst and cried while talking to someone. While father decided to stay on for the time being at the Ghazipur protest site, we rushed to our native place and by that time the photos of a weeping Rakesh Tikait went viral, forcing tauji to backtrack and he called the mahapanchayat in Muzzafarnagar the next day,” recalls Charan.
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The 29-year-old said soon after hearing about the mahapanchayat he and Gaurav flooded social media with an appeal to farmers to reach the GIC ground in Muzaffarnagar in large numbers. “The crowd that assembled at the ground was a massive one. It was beyond our wildest expectations. I do not know whether we will win the ongoing battle for repealing the farm laws, but at least we have managed to demonstrate the solidarity among members of the agrarian community for the cause. This assembly at GIC was minuscule compared to the crowd at the Boat club led by my grandfather Baba Mahendra Singh Tikait,” he added.
His grandfather’s historic seven-day sit-in at Dehli’s Boat club on October 25, 1988, in which nearly five lakh farmers participated, forced the then Rajiv Gandhi government to accept all 35 demands of the demonstrators.
“The welfare of farmers is in my DNA. I was born on December 23, 1991, the birth anniversary of our God and former Prime Minister Chaudhary Charan Singh that is celebrated as the National Farmer’s Day by the country. My father was busy in Dehli for preparations of Chaudhary saheb’s birth anniversary when he was informed about being blessed with a son. Elated, he immediately named me Charan Singh, and with the family’s surname my name is now a tribute to the two greatest leaders who fought for the cause of peasants throughout their life,” Charan Singh Tikait tells The Indian Express.
Former Samajwadi Party leader and Meerut-based social activist Gopal Agarwal says, “After the death of former Prime Minister Chaudhary Charan Singh on May 29, 1987, Baba Mahendra Singh Tikait emerged as the new messiah of farmers in western UP. On October 17, 1986, he formed a non-political organisation named the Bhartiya Kisan Union to protect the interests of farmers. Baba Tikait has headed so many movements and as a result of these agitations, he was arrested and gone to jail several times. Now, the onus to protect the interests of farmers rests with Naresh and Rakesh Tikait and their scions Gaurav and Charan Singh.”
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