The Farmers protests have entered twentieth day today with heavy number of farmers sitting in on two borders of Delhi; Singhu and Tikri borders. The two borders are miles apart and different in composition of the protesting farmers as well. While Singhu Border has a mix of people from all walks of life in Punjab, Tikri has people who are more or less farmers themselves. Joginder Singh Ugrahan led BKU Ugrahan enjoys a large following at Tikri Border and he has been able to mobilise the protesting people from Punjab to Tikri Border. Tikri Border has a higher number of women protestors as compared to Singhu border. While the male female ratio at Tikri is close to 6:4, it is 8:2 at Singhu border.
Tikri Border made news recently on Human Rights day (10th December) when protestors majorly women held pictures of Sharjeel Imam,Umar Khlaid and Vavara Rao among others demanding their release. This made the news within minutes. The news anchors walked into their studios shouting ‘Conspiracy Uncovered’, ‘Farmers Protest Hijacked’ and many other sensational tag lines. While they were shouting on top of their lungs, the images and videos were shared online by top most accounts (most of them followed by the Prime Minister) on how the farmers protests have been hijacked. A press conference at Singhu on 10th evening saw many amateur reporters question the connection with Sharjeel Imam and Umar Khalid. Farm Union leaders at Singhu were not aware of the move by Ugrahan group.
It was later clarified by Balbir singh Rajewal on 11th December that Ugrahan group is supporting from outside and that farmers protests have no such demands. This is far from over for BJP IT cell even after the statement.
The hypocrisy and Indian media’s dual standards stand exposed today when around 2000 widows of farmers protested at Tikri Border and no one was shouting on top of their lungs about the justice for them. Many news outlets ran a small byte of the clip without offering any valuable comments or seeking prime time debates on what circumstances created these widows. No questions were asked to Agriculture minister who parroted all day about how good the bills are. No questions were posed to Shivraj Chauhan who was shouting about Farmers protests as hijacked protest.
I talked to three women about their reason to support the farmers at the borders of Delhi. Harjeet Kaur (46) who became widow at 44 said that her husband loved the land. “He loved his land, we had a huge debt of 8.8lacs, he never showed any sign of weakness and then one day he didn’t wake up.” Harjeet says that she is here to support other women because it is not easy to be a widow. “When people started committing suicides in Malwa region, it was everyday phenomena, we used to hear news of suicide every day.” says Baljeet (37) who has come with two children. Baljeet lost her husband and brother to suicides. Some of these women have lost a dear one for small loans of 2lacs as well.
We as a nation have failed these women. Let this piece be reminder that this protest is not the protest of the rich, this is the protest of the people who know what their plight is going to be. Let this be reminder that when we shout about reforms we keep these women in our thoughts. Let this be reminder that when our economists tell us a rosy story of Punjab which is far from truth. This is the truth that nation ignored today. No outrage, no uncomfortable questions for people in power, and this is how collective conscience of a nation dies; slowly and painfully.