Dilli Chalo | Wives back home can shoo away creditors with ‘Sardarji is in Delhi’

Farmers under the banner of Bharatiya Kisan Union having lunch during a protest demonstration against the new farm law at the National Highway 9, near Delhi - UP border in Ghazipur, New Delhi on Saturday, December 05, 2020.   | Photo Credit: R. V. Moorthy

“Every morning, when I come to the protest site on the Ghazipur border after taking bath in the nearby gurdwara, I see policemen looking equally fresh in their uniforms. I request them to give me a few blows so that the agitation gets wings as it did in Haryana, but somehow the administration in Ghaziabad is refusing to give us the prasad,” chuckles Sukhraj Singh, 62, who has come from a village in Garh Mukteshwar area of Hapur district. This is his sixth day at the protest site and he hasn’t lost his sense of humour.

Sarcasm is in good supply as the farmers’ protest entered the tenth day at the border that connects Uttar Pradesh to Delhi and like an onion, there are many layers to this stir. When it started, it was led by Bhartiya Kisan Union’s (BKU) Tikait faction, which decided to stay under the Delhi-Meerut flyover, making it easier for the police in Delhi and in Uttar Pradesh.

However, when the Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan (RKMS) and Kisan Sabha joined them, some of the farmers shifted base to the flyover, blocking one of the lanes of the highway that takes traffic from Uttar Pradesh to Delhi.

Gurshanjeet Singh of RKMS says they were all together in the protest but it was also a fact that those sitting beneath were playing a “friendly game” till they arrived. “We came here because the government was not listening to us as long as we were in Burari. They listen to those who block roads. Now, no farmer leader could cheat his followers because youngsters are watching and everything is on social media,” adds Gurshanjeet, in what sounds like a dig at the BKU leadership.

One thing that this protest has done, adds Mr. Singh, sitting with a group of farmers from Uttarakhand, is evoking the interest of youngsters towards farming and its issues. “Now I can rest assured that my land would be tilled by my sons and grandsons. This government has given us the nischay (purpose) to hold on till our demands are met,” adds Mr. Singh, who says he has 11 acres of land.

Who feeds the farmers as they protest?

Some have described it as the protest of big farmers. Dara Singh from Bazpur in Uddham Singh Nagar chips in, “Four workers and their families depend on me. If I don’t get the payment of sugarcane on time, how will I feed them?” he wonders. “Also, only big farmers can afford to protest, the smaller ones are condemned to take their lives,” remarks Dara Singh

The protest, he says, has given the wives at home the excuse to shoo away creditors and escape embarrassment. “Ab jab koi aawaz marega (call for them), they would say, Sardarji is in Delhi!” says the 70-year-old, ready for a long haul.

For Dara Singh, the protest has also unravelled the true face of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). “From monuments to airports, this government is busy selling or giving on contract to private players everything that the country owns. It seems our fields are next on the counter,” he says. “Farmers don’t believe in mortgaging property that their forefathers have earned. We trusted Modi. We didn’t know he would turn out to be a juggler of words,” he adds.

The farmers refuse to accept aaratiyas (agents) as bichauliyas (middlemen). “This is a term being used by the government because they take a commission from them. We consider them as service providers who help us negotiate the mandi and give us money on low interest when we need it the most,” says Gursevak Singh. “This promise of the open market is another bunkum that we have tested over the years. Basmati rice is not under the MSP [scheme]. Do we get the right price for it? If we go out to sell our produce in another State, we are seen as outsiders who will agree to sell at a lower price. Plus, who will bear the cost of transportation and loss during the transit?” he asks.

“Our demand,” says Mr. Singh, “is to have the mandi system strengthened and implement the Swaminathan Report recommendation regarding MSP.”

The farmers say they have been anguished for quite some time and the farm laws were just the last straw. “Input costs have been increasing. When the global prices of petrol and diesel plummeted, the benefits were not passed on to us. A fine of ₹1 crore is imposed on the farmer for burning parali (paddy stubble) for one month. What about the factories that pollute the air through the year?” asks Mr. Singh. “The farmer, particularly from the Terai belt, wants better results for his hard work. That’s why the sons of many of them have shifted to Canada. But this government, it seems, wants to keep the farmer poor. Because if he gets educated, he will ask questions. Hope I haven’t said enough to be labelled an anti-national,” remarks Mr. Singh.

Meanwhile, the Ghaziabad administration is trying hard to ensure the situation doesn’t go out of its hands. It is pushing the farmers to shift a little further into Delhi territory but as of now, the farmers are not in a mood to listen. Additional District Magistrate (City) Shailendra Kumar Singh, who is leading the negotiations, could be heard reciting couplets and praising the Sikh courage and the Jat wit in solving problems. On Friday evening, he successfully persuaded the group to not put a tent on the flyover for sleeping at night. “We are allowing you to protest but don’t put any temporary or permanent structure on the highway. It will compel us to take action,” he said.

People have a right to demonstrate peacefully: UN spokesperson on farmers’ protests

“We have put CCTV cameras to see if any anti-social elements get into the protest site. We appreciate they are allowing the movement of vehicles of essential services. The concern is their call is Delhi Chalo but they are facing Uttar Pradesh,” says Abhishek Verma, Superitendent of Police (City) Ghaziabad.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2021 2:08:53 PM |

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