Protesting farmers have denied the rumours of "thinning crowd" in words and action — determined to get their demands fulfilled, they continue unmoved amid resistance
Kawalpreet Kaur from Uttar Pradesh's Jhansi has been sitting in screeching hot summer of April at the Ghazipur Border, where farmers from northern India have been protesting for the last five months against the three agriculture laws.
56-year-old Kaur who had come here with other women said that they are coming in shifts as the harvesting season is going on. "We will be here for a week then other people from the village will come here," she said.
Contrary to rumours that there are hardly any people at the protest site, farmers are sitting firm and have refused to budge. At Singhu Border, the crowd is larger than Ghazipur. Farmers, mostly from Haryana and Punjab, have been protesting at Singhu Border.
Malkeet Singh, hailing from Punjab's Patiala has been part of the protest since the beginning. He is frustrated telling people that farmers are still firm. "So many people have been calling me and asking whether the protest is over, all I tell them is paaji come here and see for yourself," he said, sitting at a makeshift library at Singhu Border.
Surrounding him are his comrades who have been running the library which is a "platform for healthy discussion". On being pointed out that the crowd has thinned down from the previous days when there was no place to walk, Singh said that it is due to the harvesting season that people have gone back.
"In another week or so you just see how the crowd will thicken. We will upload all the photos on social media so that people be aware of the ground reality," Gagandeep Singh, who was sitting with Malkeet said.
With harvesting season almost over, the borders have again been brimming with people over the past couple of days, which people say is going to increase over the next few days.
Amid the COVID-19 chaos that has engulfed the whole country, farmers are saying they have not seen any cases at the protest site. With makeshift hospitals already in place, doctors are saying all the precautions are being taken.
"Masks are being distributed, and protesters are maintaining social distancing. I have been checking patients regularly and no one has come to me with any sort of symptoms," a doctor at the protest site said.
Meanwhile, camps have been set up for vaccination and other essential services at the Tikri border. Masks and other essential items were distributed today at the Kajaria tiles office at the Singhu border. Farmers are utilising these services and taking proper care of their health.
At the Ghazipur border, Danish, who has come from Uttar Pradesh's Bhgapat said that they are taking all precautions, further stating that if necessary they would get vaccinated as well. "We are here to protest peacefully. Nobody likes to sit on the road, we are here for a reason and we will fulfil it and leave," he added.
As Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and other parts of the country face problems due to lack of oxygen supply and other medical services, farmers have also put out a helping hand.
The protesting farmers have already opened one side of the road (even as they kept passages open and clear throughout) and even cleaned it. "Delhi Police's barricades have not yet been removed, however, Samyukta Kisan Morcha has made a formal request through an email that the roads should be opened so that oxygen, ambulance and other essential services can run smoothly," Samyukt Kisan Morcha, a union of various farmers group said in a statement.
They also said that states like Uttar Pradesh are in a problem, although the Chief Minister is reported to have said that there is no shortage of oxygen and action will be taken against those who spread such information. "This is a very questionable and objectionable statement. When the government has destabilised the system and machinery through privatization and citizens are dying on the streets and in/near hospitals, the government's attempt to suppress the voice of the people in holding up the reality is condemned," a statement from farm leader Darshan Pal had said.
Mobilisation in Haryana and Punjab
An activist associated with the protest had hinted that the thinning of the crowd is also because mobilization is taking place in villages of Punjab and Haryana. "Many people are protesting in Punjab and Haryana where the mobilization has increased, and on top of that, harvesting season is also going on, but the moment it gets over people are expected to come back," he said.
In Haryana and Punjab with Mahapanchayat and harvesting almost finished, people can be seen at the protest sites. In villages of Haryana, farmers have put up barricades banning the entry of BJP legislators.
With protest completing more than 150 days, the farmers are sitting strong, saying they are not going to budge. This comes at a time when many tents at the protests were targeted. Tents and a car were allegedly set on fire by unidentified miscreants at Singhu and Ghazipur borders where farmers have been sitting on protest.
At Singhu Border at least five makeshift hutments and a car came into the wrath of the fire and were completely gutted allegedly by an unidentified man near Rasoi Dhaba at Kundli-Singhu Border. No one got injured in the accident, however, all the belongings of the farmers including clothes and coolers were gutted in the fire.
Farmer leader Baldev Singh Sirsa said that the man had fled when he saw farmers coming towards the tent. "Farmers tried to catch him but he managed to flee the spot. The BJP government has been making all attempts to crush our voice and they have stopped such a low of setting tents ablaze," he added.
A tent behind the main stage was gutted in fire. Speaking to Millennium Post, Vasu Kukreja, an advocate who is a part of the protest said that at evening when the protesters were doing prayers, four unidentified men came and set fire to the tents. "Most of the people were at the path, including me when four boys in red t-shirts came and set fire to the tents. Till that time we realized they had already gone, but we had seen their clothes," he added.
The protesters said that this is intimidation, which won't work. "We are tensed with the Covid situation and on top of that we are witnessing a crackdown from the government, but we also know that the protest cannot stop," Malkeet Singh said determinedly.
Views expressed are personal