Farmers invoke Tikait, evoke 1988 Boat Club protest

Looking to history: Protesting farmers near the Ghaziabad-Delhi border on Wednesday.   | Photo Credit: Jatin Anand

A little over 32 years after lakhs of farmers descended on the Boat Club lawns in New Delhi for Mahendra Singh Tikait’s legendary campaign — successfully securing waiver of power and water bills, and higher price for sugarcane, countless farmers on Wednesday gathered at one of the five gates of Delhi seeking inspiration from the famous 1988 stir.

Considered the most prominent leader of his kind in the country, Mr. Tikait had led five lakh farmers from western Uttar Pradesh in a week-long successful siege.

Closing in on day seven of their own battle, members of Mr. Tikait’s Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) — camped a kilometre away from the Ghaziabad-Delhi border, which they have named ‘Kisan Kranti Gate’ — said what was unfolding now was “another Boat Club” protest, but this time they were prepared for a much longer agitation.

More reinforcements

Meanwhile, farmers predominantly affiliated with BKU (Bhanu) gathered at the Noida-Delhi border and called for reinforcements and supplies as arrangements were put in place to brave yet another cold evening, wedged between the U.P and Delhi police forces.

Their parked vehicles stretched for over half-a-kilometre along a slip road leading to the Delhi border.

Farmers were seen sitting around traditional hukkas discussing current events and future course of action.

Others napped below tractors laden with supplies ostensibly meant to last several days if not weeks.

“This protest is taking place 32 years after the Boat Club stir. Back then, political leaders, no matter how influential they were, and Prime Ministers, no matter how popular they were, came to talk to the farmers because we are a democracy and this country runs on dialogue. What is stopping the current PM from reaching out to us on his own?” asked Ravindra Khari from Meerut.

We are willing to forgo “any benefit” the Centre sees as “unnecessary” for farmers, Rambir Chauhan from Surajpur said, but added that they would fight till the end for what they deemed necessary for their survival.

“The three agriculture laws will hurt farmers severely in the long run. We have already conveyed our demands to the government and now it is time for them to decide. We came here for a solution and we will stay here till we get it. If not, we are the sons of the same warrior-farmers who brought Delhi to a standstill once before. This is the Boat Club rally of our generation,” he said.

‘Come and talk to us’

“Is this the Naya Bharat that we were promised? One where farmers are being forced to sit on the streets for their rightful due? We are only claiming our right, not anybody else’s. Why hide behind papers, Ministers and announcements? Come and talk to us. We are the same people who voted you to power just a year ago,” said Vijender Singh from Bijnore.

As more tractors brought provisions and protesters to the meeting point a stone’s throw away from the Gautam Buddha statue at the Noida Gate, announcements were made by union leaders urging farmers to heed the leadership’s call to maintain calm and cleanliness.

After already having spent the previous night in the open, efforts were on to make the next night as comfortable as possible.

“There is another meeting (with the government) on Thursday but we are not very hopeful about the outcome. We have enough provisions for tonight and more are on the way,” said Yudhvir Chaudhary from Kasna.

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Printable version | Jan 16, 2021 8:30:20 PM |

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