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Urban Punjab join farmers’ protests: ‘We don’t have farmland, but we do have a conscience’

As every city in the state saw people coming out on the roads this time, even the industrial town of Ludhiana, which usually never rises to such calls, saw people supporting the bandh.

Written by Raakhi Jagga | Ludhiana | Updated: December 9, 2020 4:00:03 pm
framer protests, farmers protests delhi, delhi border farmer protests, govt farmer talks, opposition on Farmers protest, govt assurance on farm laws, india news, indian express newsA group of women volunteers asking shopkeepers to close shops and support Farmers protest during the Bharat Bandh in Sector 17 Chandigarh.

While the protests against Centre’s farm laws have been driven majorly by farmers, Tuesday’s band saw an outpouring of support from urban areas in Punjab.

As every city in the state saw people coming out on the roads this time, even the industrial town of Ludhiana, which usually never rises to such calls, saw people supporting the bandh.

Bakhtawar Singh, owner of Modern Opticals in Chaura Bazar, who is also president of the Chaura Bazar Association, said, “Sade kol zameen nahi par zameer hai (we don’t have land for agriculture, but we have a conscience.)

Harjinder Singh Kukreja (34),owner of Hot Breads and Belfrance eating joints in city’s Sarabha Nagar area was out on the roads with protesting farmes. Earlier in the day, Kukreja along with other store owners had gathered in the Sarabha Nagar market to welcome farmers.

This market has many branded stores and eating joints and it was shut Tuesday in support of farmers.

Kukreja said, “I was at Singhu border on Monday and on Sunday, our entire family was part of candle light march at Sarabha Nagar market.”

His wife, Harkirat Kaur (30), was part of that candle light march along with her kids aged 9, 7 and 2 years. Kukreja said, “Farmers are linked to us. The entire economy is connected with farmers. Our state is an agrarian state and the same money rotates in the market. If a farmer will earn less, the same money will rotate in the market and hence my restaurant will be affected automatically. In fact, even if my neighbour loses job, it affects me and here are the 60 per cent of the population of the state. I feel that they should be listened to and their demands should be met.”

Sonu Nilibar (52), the owner of Nilibar – a garment store on Mall road said, “City stayed open during the previous bandh calls of farmers on September 25 and one was in October, but this time, I was the first one to display a board outside my store on December 3 to extend my support to farmers. Later, I and a few friends decided to extend support to bandh. I saw that most part of the city wanted to support farmers as I could see boards in markets, stickers on cars on Monday evening.”

His wife, Puneet Nilibar (45), said, “Every day on the dining table we talk about farmers only. We thank them for the food which we are eating. A deep gratitude to them, hence observing bandh for a day is not a big thing, they are sitting on roads in biting cold.”

Preet Chandoke, a software engineer, said,”I stay connected with farmers a lot as we tried to make biofuel out of paddy stubble. Hence, we do understand their problems, challenges of weather and government’s support. We stood by them and are always in support of our farmers.”

Roti pasted on pla-cards by residents of Zirakpur to mark their protest (Express photo by Jaipal Singh)

Ranjodh Singh, owner of GS Auto – an automobile company, was at Jagraon bridge dharna along with people from all walks of life.

He said, “Shopkeepers, industrialists, service sector people had gathered at the Jagraon bridge. None of us has any land in villages, but we are standing by farmers. Assi Zameena te zameeran daunve kayam rakhange (we will hold on to both land and our conscience).”

Harminder Singh Tuteja, who has a sanitary goods shop in Ludhiana said, “Farmers’ income is going to affect us. If he is unhappy with the farm laws, why are they being implemented?”

Nilibar added,” 80% of the farmers in Punjab have land less than 5 acres and hence they are going to be impacted. Even if these laws are for the good, why were farmers not briefed in layman’s language before making them acts? We support farmers and will always support them in this struggle.”

Nilibar’s father Uttam Singh (82) said, “I migrated from Pakistan where my parents were ahrtiyas. Firstly, we settled in Malaut in Muktsar district to continue working as ahrityas and later shifted to Ludhiana. We are closely connected with farmers. Many of our clients are from villages. Most of our NRI clients have a rural base in Punjab. We are well aware that if farmers are unhappy, the nation is unhappy.

Areas in the city like Jawaddi bridge, Dugri bridge, all the main roads were blocked by residents and they had come from cities in majority. “No one was forced to close shops as I live in BRS Nagar and only one cloth merchant in our area opened his shop, and no one objected to it. This was a self-observed bandh,”said Ranjodh Singh.

Meanwhile, a few industrial units opened even though majority of industrial associations had given a call to close the units . Interestingly many doctors, nursing staff as well supported this cause, though they extended support through social media.

Kuldeep Singh Khaira, a social activist who runs a dairy products shop in Ishar Singh Nagar, said,”I was part of this rally taking out from my area and my wife who is a nurse at a private hospital joined me today as she had no morning shift.”

Amarjeet Kaur, his wife, said,”We differ in our opinions most of the time but this time, I fully support him. “

In Bathinda, 35 urban welfare associations participated in the bandh call.

Master Resham Singh, a government school teacher who lives in Bathinda, said, “Here everyone closed their units/shops without any banners, messages. The impact was so strong. We even joined farmers’ protest outside the mall of a corporate house at Bhucho Mandi.”

Also Read | Income and insecurity: Why farmers across economic spectrum are at border protests

Protest in Sector 17, Chandigarh (Express Photo by Kamleshwar Singh)

Barnala also had a similar impact where urban and rural people joint rallies. “Normally Barnala’s city area responds to farmers’ calls, but this time the response was extraordinary,” said Narian Dutt, social activist in Barnala.

Urban areas in Mansa, Muktsar, Ferozepur , Fazilka ,Sangrur, Moga , Patiala, Faridkot’s too saw an overwhelming response to the bandh.

Shahi Imam lends support

Shahi Imam Maulana Habib Ur Rehman Sani Ludhianavi led a march of Muslim community members from Jama Masjid till Jagraon bridge in Ludhiana. Everyone had langar together arranged by a local gurdwara. Similarly, Muslim men and women came in large numbers on roads in Bathinda as well.

Cong, SAD hold protests

Congress organised district-level dharnas in the entire state. SAD workers too organised dharnas in every city of Punjab to support farmers.

Response overwhelming: farm outfits

Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan, general secretary of BKU (Ugrahan), said, “This time response from urban areas was more than expected. Even in Chandigarh, residents came out in support of farmers on their own. Our Prime Minister should understand that people have written it on the wall as what they want.”

Jagmohan Singh Patiala of the All India Kisan Sangrash Coordination Committee said, ‘’Urban people had participated earlier as well by organising special programmes. However, this time the voluntary bandh from them after just based on a call of farmer unions shows that we all have one voice. Majority should win and government should relent.”

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