Farmers' Protest | Camaraderie and humanism to the fore

Lawyer runs ‘heritage’ library to educate protesters at Tikri

As State lines continue to blur among them, a 35-year-old lawyer from Punjab’s Mansa juggles daily virtual court appearances and provide legal aid to those arrested for their alleged role in the Republic Day violence, at the Tikri border.

Representing the first generation from a family of farmers to take up a different occupation, Jagtar Singh Sidhu, from a tent he set up 45 days ago, runs the “Shared Heritage Library” seeking to educate protesting Haryana and Punjab farmers about the common history of their past generations leading up to, and following, the two partitions of Punjab — first in 1947 and then in 1966.

“I have been associated with the protest since July last year when it was limited to Punjab and have been here for the last 45 days. We have books on history, religion and literature in Hindi, Punjabi and English. Between 20 and 25 books are issued every day. People should know where they come from and how they got here,” he said.

“True Indianness lies in our diversity, so we should read diverse literature and culture to peacefully coexist. For me, it is as simple as that. This shared heritage is of India where a movement like this, which is bound to have international repercussions, is taking place right now,” said Mr. Sidhu, who is part of a team of 200 lawyers providing legal aid to those arrested in several cases related Republic Day violence.

From Vladimir Bogomolov and Nelson Mandela to Gandhi and Pash, Sadat Hasan Manto and Ismat Chughtai to Jaishankar Prasad and Mohan Rakesh, from Ishtiaq Ahmed to Tony Joseph, Mr. Sidhu’s library, he said, seeks to bring together not just literary glimpses of the undivided Punjab of yesteryear that lay between Peshawar and Delhi but that of diverse cultures culminating in “Indian-ness”.

It would be wrong to view the farmers’ protests as isolated or limited to the States of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh as their trajectory would have larger, if not global, consequences, he said.

“I have studied the effects of similar provisions in agricultural laws in the West and their negative effect on farmers. This protest is not just to determine the fate of a few harvests but of the ownership of the seed out of which food grows,” he said.

“Before 1947, we had one lakh varieties of rice in this country but now there are just 5,000. Soon, even the seed that a farmer sows will have to be the variety which is sold by corporates. Whichever way this movement goes will have an effect on the whole world scenario in terms of ownership of land, food grains and the right to produce food per se,” he said.

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2021 12:37:13 PM |

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