Sonipat: The protesting farmers at the Singhu border of the national capital Friday marked the completion of one year of agitation, expressing happiness about the withdrawal of the three contentious farm laws. They, however, stressed that the movement won’t end until the government concedes their demand for legal backing for minimum support price (MSP).
Thousands of farmers across Punjab and Haryana reached Singhu to show support for the protesters on the first anniversary of the beginning of the agitation.
The protest had begun on 26 November 2020 when farmers marched to Delhi’s borders in tractors and trollies to seek the withdrawal of the three laws. Their demand was met last week as Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the repeal of the laws in the upcoming Parliament session.
On Friday, the slogans of “kisan ekta zindabad” (long live farmers’ unity) and “MSP guarantee lagu karo” (enact MSP guarantee) reverberated across the protest site, which was nearly empty until a month ago.
Several young farmers brought their open-air jeeps and tractors with music systems and did Bhangra to Punjabi tunes to celebrate the repeal announcement. However, the elder protesters emphasised that the movement isn’t over until the MSP demand is met too.
“We have brought a bus full of people from Mohali to support our farmers brothers here at Singhu,” said Jagdish Kaur, a retired government official protesting at the site.
“While the farm laws have been repealed, the main issue is MSP. We will continue the fight till our other demands are met. Primarily, MSP should be guaranteed and those who were killed during the protest should be provided with some financial help from the government,” Kaur told ThePrint.
MSP is the price safety net provided by the government to farmers for 23 crops — paddy, wheat, maize, sorghum, pearl millet, barley, ragi, gram, tur, moong, urad, lentil, groundnut, rapeseed-mustard, soybean, sesamum, sunflower, safflower, niger seed, copra, sugarcane, cotton and raw jute.
Baljinder Kaur, another farmer and protester, said the PM’s announcement rekindled hope among the people at the Singhu site.
“There is a new kind of energy here. Earlier, the government was not listening to us at all, but now after the announcement, everyone is hopeful that other demands will also be met. The government will have to agree to our demands because they can clearly see their power is being challenged,” she said.
No ‘pizza langar’, but blood donation camps
On Friday, the scenes at the Singhu site resembled how they were last year when the protests first broke out. The leaders of Samyukt Kisan Morcha addressed the crowd from the main stage, which was surrounded by hundreds of men and women carrying flags and dupattas of their respective farmers’ union.
The celebrations weren’t extravagant as farmers also mourned the loss of 750 fellow co-protesters — as claimed by farmer leader Rakesh Tikait — who died due to various reasons during the agitation.
‘Pizza langar’, which was the subject of much contention last year, wasn’t held this time. However, the farmers held a blood donation drive and distributed simple langar food items.
“It’s unfortunate the way our kisan brothers lost their lives, whether in Lakhimpur Kheri or in Karnal. The criminal cases are also against us. These cases should be taken back, this is also one of our demands,” said Jagdish Arya, a Panipat unit member of the Bhartiya Kisan Union.
In October this year, a minister’s convoy allegedly ran over several farmers during a protest in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri. Earlier in August, a farmer had allegedly died during protests in Karnal after lathicharge by the police.
‘Shouldn’t celebrate unless laws taken back in Parliament’
Another group of protesters, who reached Singhu from Delhi, said they will continue their unconditional support to the farmers as the agitation proceeds.
“We have been coming to Singhu since last one year and we are so proud of our farmers brothers and sisters for holding the morcha for so long and for their win, but the fight is still on. Unless they decide to go back, we will continue supporting them here. But we are happy that the PM has announced to take the laws back,” said Preeti Kaur, a Delhi resident and supporter of the movement.
However, another protester highlighted apprehension among the farmers in trusting the government until the laws are repealed in the Parliament.
“The PM has given many such jumlas (false promises) in the past, how do we know this is not another one of his jumlas. We should not celebrate unless the laws are taken back officially in the Parliament,” said Barnala resident Balbir Singh.
(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)