Community kitchen to toilets, hues of hospitality seen on NH 9

Virender Mandothia, a wrestling coach, distributes lassi to farmers; a facility set up by the locals of Bahadurgarh with the support from 84 villages in Haryana on Tuesday.  

As an eight-kilometre-long blockade of “reinforcements” ready to march to the Capital steadily grows in number on the National Highway 9, residents from villages in Haryana’s Bahadurgarh and beyond are busy assisting and making thousands of farmers protesting against the farm laws feel at home.

A community kitchen is being run by a wrestling coach. A posse of around 50 of his students are serving langar round-the-clock and providing bedding and warm clothes to fight the biting cold at night. A collective of 84 Haryana villages is making toilets, bathrooms and raw vegetables available to the agitating farmers from both Punjab and their home State. The Delhi-Rohtak road bears witness to several such hues of hospitality.

Sub-city springs up

For those unable to find space for their tractor trollies on the blocked carriageway leading to Delhi, a sub-city has sprung up at the Shining Star Sports Club, a semi-functional mall on the stretch heading towards Sampla, which has also thrown open its toilets and bathrooms to farmers and women in their families.

“Our village witnessed the march of farmers from Punjab the night they breached the cordons of security personnel on their way to the Tikri border protest site. Many set up camp there but mostly the elderly among them were left behind and stayed here. I couldn’t bear to see them cooking and making arrangements for themselves. So I decided to set up langar,” said Virender Mandothia, popularly known as Bhullar Pehalwan, a wrestling coach.

With carpets laid on the ground under two layers of cloth, in addition to two types of roti, vegetables, and mixed daal are being served at Mr. Mandothia’s “Pehalwan ka Roti Sabzi ka Langar” at the Pakoda Chowk in the Naya Gaon village since November 27.

From his own resources as well as donations from some village residents and protesters, the community kitchen also provides salted lassi, tea, and snacks, including peanuts and dry fruits, to “his guests” across the road from the local protest site, which has a stage similar to the Singhu and Tikri border protest sites.

‘50 helpers’

“I have around 50 pupils who come and help out during the busy hours — morning and night — there is no count of the people who come for tea, snacks, and lassi, but we end up using at least 4,500 disposable plates per day,” he said.

“You will not find any politician’s son farming or in the Army, but you will find a farmer’s son doing both these jobs. The farmer provides everything except water that goes in every stomach — whether a human’s or an animal’s. This is not the treatment they deserve,” he also said.

Jagsir Singh from Punjab’s Barnala, one of the diners at the langar, said most villages had made arrangements to give lassi, apples, and bananas to protesters like him. “We offered them raw vegetables and other produce from our fields in return but they refused, saying their rules of hospitality didn’t permit them to take anything in return,” he said.

As one returns to the highway, tractor trollies are parked for hundreds of metres on a service road as well as in the vicinity of two malls — one under construction and the other mostly uninhabited.

While women, mostly senior citizens, line up outside two restrooms on the ground level, the men climb up one to three flights of stairs to utilise those on the three consecutive floors at the far end of the Shining Star Sports Club.

“This is the least we could have done,” said a local resident employed as a security guard near its gates. “I am the son of a farmer and so is the owner of this property; all of them [farmers] are like our family and we are doing for them what they would have done for us if they visited,” he said.

Transit camp

A few kilometres down NH-9 towards Sampla, a large banner proclaims that 84 villages belonging to the Dalal Khap or community have made arrangements for food, toilets, and bathrooms to showcase its support for the farmers’ agitation.

Operated by the residents of the Luna Majra village where it is located, the transit camp, according to a local resident who only identified himself as “Mr. Dalal” functioned on resources gathered from 84 villages across Haryana.

“The Dalal Khap has mobilised everything from bedding and warm clothes to spices, fruits, and raw vegetables from the hinterland for those gathered here,” he said.

“Farmers from Punjab bring along raw vegetables and we provide the spices to cook for and serve as many people as possible. There is no count of the number of people we feed,” he said.

What, Jagdish Lal Cheema from Moga asked, could be a better testament to the unity of farmers from both States except food cooked with different ingredients provided by each, consumed by them all.

Sonu Dalal from Rohtak’s Bawani Khera village said local residents not only opened up their own bathrooms and toilets for those stopping at the camp but even helped with their laundry. “We can sustain ourselves and thousands of others like us not for months but even a year; we won’t move till the laws are removed,” he declared.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2022 6:03:06 AM |

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