Barricades, tear gas, langar and songs of revolution: photographers document the daily lives of protesting farmers

Akshay Kapoor, Naveen Macro and Mohammed Zuber talk about life at the borders and their experiences while documenting the protests

December 15, 2020 11:53 am | Updated 06:47 pm IST

A farmer sitting in his trailer at Singhu border

A farmer sitting in his trailer at Singhu border

It is a chilly winter morning at the Singhu border near Delhi. The highway that once connected Delhi to Haryana, is now chock-a-block with tractors and trucks parked by farmers protesting against the Centre’s three farm bills. Freshly made tea is being served. An elderly farmer ties his turban looking into his tractor’s mirror. Few boys play volleyball between the tractors and above them flutters the flag of Bhartiya Kisan Union. A few yards away, a group of women chatters away as they chop onions for the next meal. Slogans and songs that hail revolution are heard from a distance.

These are scenes from the videos made by Naveen Macro, a freelance photographer and filmmaker who is documenting the farmers’ protests. “These protest sites are now like a big village where people are taking care of each other and ensuring there is food and shelter for everyone. That is what I have tried to capture in my videos, ‘A walk with the farmer’ and ‘The festival of democracy’,” says Naveen.

Through his Instagram handle, @naveenmacro, the photographer has been sharing images and short films that capture the essence of day-to-day life of the protesters at Singhu and Tikri borders. “I have been visiting the protest sites every day since the farmers arrived. I reach the place early in the morning and spend most of the day talking to the farmers, eating with them and capturing their activities. Though I have been coming here for over 10 days now, there is always something new [to document],” adds the former photojournalist who has also captured the Anti-CAA protests in Delhi and the uproar following the Hathras gangrape.

A police personnel serving at a langar in Delhi

A police personnel serving at a langar in Delhi

Of all the images that Naveen has shared on his social media handles, the picture of Balwinder Singh, a police officer serving food to protesting farmers has garnered the most number of likes and comments. “It stood in contrast to the image of a police officer hitting an elderly farmer, which became the representative image of the protests. While that side of the protests is true, my image shows the other side, where people irrespective of who they are, are helping each other just on the basis of humanity,” he says .

Akshay Kapoor, another photographer from Delhi says he loves documenting the ordinary activities in such extra-ordinary times. “After so many days, it feels like these farmers have always been here. There are so many ways in which these farmers are trying to make the streets feel like home. Every day, I find a few additions made to make it more homely. Be it installation of screens for entertainment, or solar panels being put up so that farmers can charge their phones or volley ball games to keep themselves occupied. So when I go to photograph the protest site, I don’t look for extra-ordinary things, I rather look for mundane things that bring out the human aspect of the protests,” says the photographer who has also documented the protests demanding justice for the Hathras gangrape victim in Delhi.

For Akshay who shares these images on his Instagram handle @akshaykapoooor, his favourite image from the farmers protests is of a farmer sitting in a trailer under a roof dotted with holes due to overuse.

Women cooking at the protest sites

Women cooking at the protest sites

It is this human side of protests that appealed to 25-year-old Mohammed Zuber when he started photographing the protests. “One of the movements that touched me the most was when an elderly farmer from Punjab who was in his 90s said that he was raising his voice because he did not want a country for his kids where the farmers don’t get their due. I met another farmer who decided to give his daughter’s wedding a miss because he wanted to stay in Delhi and support his ‘brothers’,” says Zuber.

With over 25,000 followers on Instagram , Zuber (@_emmzedd) says that appreciation for documenting this has been pouring in from across the world. “People settled in Canada, the UK and USA but belong to agricultural families have been sharing our posts and creating awareness about the cause. It feels great to see that everyone is trying to do their bit,” adds Zuber

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