From schoolboy to man in debt, all unified in stir

Women protesting at the Singhu border on Monday  

A 15-year-old boy taking online classes, a 21-year-old farmer, an 80-year-old man with a debt of ₹4 lakh, and a 45-year-old woman — who says she has come at her own will and “not for ₹100/day” — are just some of the protestors who visited the Singhu border — one of the main places where agitators have been gathering.

Arshdeep Singh Saini, a Class 10 student of a government school, was at the protest site with his cousins and elders of his village on November 26. He came with his books and notebooks. He also owns a smartphone, which comes in handy for his online classes. “I have brought my school bag here and have my classes are from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. every day except Sunday,” he said. He keeps checking a WhatsApp group called — Class 10 boys — where his teachers post the work that he needs to do and have links to worksheets.

Arshdeep said not only did he want to be a part of the protest but also his parents sent him willingly. His teachers have also supported his decision. “My parents asked me to come back only when our demands are met. My teachers know I am here and I keep posting stories on WhatsApp. They say I can stay here as much as I need to and continue to do my classwork from here,” he said. Arshdeep has an idea about why the farmers are protesting. We want the government to ensure that we get a minimum price on our produce, he said.

After classes, the 15-year-old spends his day walking the stretch and recording videos on his phone. There are a handful like Arshdeep at the protest site.

Another protestor is a 21-year-old BA graduate from Kurukshetra University and resident of Haryana’s Karnal — Gurjant Singh — whose family owns 10-acre farmland. He said he does not want a job at a private firm because “we were taught when we were toddlers not to be slaves to anyone”.

Singh said the new farm laws will take away all the rights of produce, yield and price from the farmers and be given to the corporates.

“I am here because I am a farmer and I can’t let myself and my father be exploited. For instance, I produced corn on two acres of land and sold 38 quintals for ₹1,100 to a firm and now it’s being sold for ₹22/kg in the market. That is what the corporates will do to us,” he said. Gurjant said: “I can earn as a farmer. My grandfather, Kartar Singh, was a freedom fighter,” he said.

Among the protestors was a 45-year-old woman, Mahinder Kaur, who has come with her group of seven-eight women from Punjab’s Sangrur district. She lost her husband seven years ago due to a cardiac arrest. She now lives with her son, daughter-in-law and grandson.

“There are people who say that women are called here at such protests for ₹100-₹500/ day. I want to tell them that we are for our rights,” she said, adding that she will stay at the site till her health permits.

The women’s group said there are not many women at the protest site as going to the toilet is a major issue. “We manage in the open or visit local houses,” they said.

The 80-year-old protester, Gurdeep Singh Nihang from Patiala, said he has a loan of ₹4 lakh. “At this age, I am willing to stay here for as long as it’s required,” he said. His family of four daughters, a son and a wife support his decision but stay in touch with him over phone calls.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2021 11:09:40 PM |

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