It’s dusk and a group of women, including the young and elderly, have reached their village — Harigarh in Punjab’s Barnala distict — after staging a protest for hours at a nearby toll plaza in Badbar on the Patiala-Bathinda national highway.
While the male farmers continue to sit at the ‘ pucca-morcha ’ (permanent protest site) in Badbar, the women are back not just to take care of their household work, but also to ensure that the arrangements for ‘langar’ (community kitchen) for the protesters are put in place.
This has been their schedule for the last two months.
Standing shoulder to shoulder with men in the agitation against the new agriculture laws, these women — who are all willing to leave for the national capital to join the stir as and when the need arises — collect grains, vegetables, milk etc., from the village every day and prepare food to be served at the protest site.
Perturbed over the Centre government’s “indifferent” attitude towards the farmers’ protest and their demands, 27-year-old Ramanpreet Kaur, who works at private healthcare company, told The Hindu on Thursday that she was willing to leave for Delhi as and when its required. “I am the daughter of a farmer and if I don’t support this agitation and farmers, then I feel I’ll be betraying my community,” she said.
Ms. Kaur, who has been rendering her services since the agitation started over two months ago, said: “Several committees of women have been set up across the village. Every evening, we get together and move around the village in the areas assigned to us to collect rations, money and other things. We cook food and send it to the protest site, it’s our duty and all of us are performing it,” said Ms. Kaur.
Sixty-year-old Balbir Kaur, said she was with the protesting farmers and would not relent at any cost unless their demands were met. “After completing my household work in the morning, I go to the protest site and sit over there for three-four hours daily. Later, in the evening, I, along with other women, stroll around the village for collecting food and other items. We are collecting all necessary things be it clothes, food or medicine as part of the preparations for going to Delhi,” she added.
“All of us are together in this battle. Whenever we receive a call from our leaders, we will march to Delhi without hesitating,” said Amarjeet Kaur, 65.
Seventy-year-old Karnail Kaur said: “The women in Punjab are very well capable of taking care of themselves, their households and fight for their rights in the outside world with all the might.”
Expressing doubts over positive results emerging from the ongoing talks between the Centre government and farmers, Parminder Kaur, 54, said “I have lost trust in the government, they [the Centre] have backstabbed us by bringing the new laws, which are not in our interest. I’ll keep fighting even if it costs me my life. Delhi will have to listen to us, we will make them listen,” she said.
Parvinder Singh Makkan, a local farmer leader, said that in the agitation, the cooperation of women had been phenomenal. “They have been the backbone of our agitation. In several villages including ours, women committees had been set up, who are assigned different responsibilities from time to time. At the Badbar toll plaza, where day-night dharna is being held, the food for hundreds of participants is prepared and provided with the help of the village women folk,” he said.
“On a daily basis, we make announcements from a loudspeaker in the village about the requirement of food, based on the people present at the protest site. Never had there been a day when there was any shortage of food or other essential items. The involvement of women has been a key factor in strengthening this agitation,” he said. “Now, they [women] are all set to leave for Delhi. They are only waiting for the nod from leaders,” he added.