Farmers Protest has entered 87th day and is going strong on the four borders (Ghazipur, Singhu, Bahadurgarh and Shahjahanpur)of Delhi. Farmers are protesting against the three farm laws which were brought by BJP’s Indian government during pandemic by bypassing the parliamentary protocols and constitution as well. Farmers are also demanding implementation of Swaminathan report to ensure fair and minimum support price for their crop.
Farmers protest has entered a vital stage as sowing season approaches in the states of Punjab and Haryana. The number of farmers agitating on the borders of Delhi has remained fairly significant since last 87 days with the exception of 27th Jan when farmer numbers dwindled a little bit.
It is grassroots movement in Punjab that has been building up since last two decades due to disillusioned peasantry. None of the governments at the centre or the state have done anything more than the eye wash policies and reforms. Farmer suicides are all time high in India and Punjab is no exception to it. The natural resources are declining at an alarming pace coupled with inflation resulting in ever consistent debt on farmers. The Central government is presenting the new laws as ‘reforms’ but farmers can clearly see through the intent of government.
Villages have kept the movement alive
As evident from the result of recently concluded Nigam Panchayat and Muncipal Elections in Punjab, this movement of farmers is strong in the rural Punjab. The ousting of BJP and it’s former allies Shiromani Akali Dal has defined the picture that there is growing anger in the villages of Punjab against anyone who has wronged peasantry.
Gurdwaras are playing a significant role in keeping farmers movement alive and strong.
The Sangat and gurdwaras have played mitochondrial role in keeping farmers agitation up to date. I visited three villages (Dande, Dhanola Khurd, Mallowal) of Amritsar to find out how gurdwaras are powering the movement.
There are two gurdwaras in Dande village. The Sarpanch of the village who is present at Delhi Morcha is kept informed about the proceedings in the village by his son who visits Singhu border every weekend. Satnam Singh who is the granthi in the gurdwara tells me that gurdwaras have been talking about the farmers laws since June-July when ordinances were brought. He says that talk about the farm laws by people who know about the demerits got strong after the laws were passed in September. “Everyday after Rehraas Sahib and Hukumnaama, we would talk about how the new laws are not good and that we might need sacrifices to repeal these laws.”
In another village Mallowal, the granthi Gurjeet Singh tells me that gurdwaras have played significant role in being the centres for making announcements in the village. He says that all Jathas going towards or coming from Delhi enrol and register in Gurdwara. “We have taken this move to keep data of our people at the Morcha after 26th Jan. We share the emergency contact with the outgoing people and also make sure that ailing people are brought back for treatment.”
In village Dhanola Khurd Gurdwara of the village acts as reservoir for the material that is sent to the protesting sites. The volunteers or the sewadaars of the gurdwara make rounds in the village and collect food items, basic necessities, and items needed at Morcha. These items are brought in Gurdwara and are sent as per needs of the Morcha with every Jatha that leaves. The sewadar tells me that like other gurdwaras they too maintain the data of outgoing and incoming farmers after 26th jan.
With sowing season ahead and farmers ready for long haul the gurdwaras in villages of Punjab are ready to take up the challenge. Gurdwaras in some villages have organised the sewadars who assist the females of village in sowing, urea procurement, seed purchase and labour hiring etc. It is noteworthy that farmers movement has brought the sense of togetherness in villages which was waning away in recent times.
The villagers in Punjab are of the belief that no farmer will return until the laws are repealed. The families of the farmers have made it clear to their men and women at borders that they should not come empty handed even if it means sacrificing their lives. The syncretism seen between the gurdwaras and social movement is really important and significant given the rise of Deras and Churches in Punjab. This has demolished the myth that Punjab is under the radar of massive conversion plans.