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‘Kagaz lekar jaenge’ — farmers at Tikri & Singhu laud repeal but will stay until it’s official

PM Modi announced Friday that the three controversial farm laws will be repealed in the upcoming winter session of Parliament. Protesters say they will wait and watch.

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New Delhi: Hume kagaz lekar jaenge (we will go only after we have documents to prove the farm laws have been officially repealed),” said Navroop Kaur, a woman farmer near the protest site at Tikri border. Her fellow protesters echoed her cautious reception of the news that the three controversial farm laws would shortly be withdrawn.  

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced Friday that the laws, introduced last year, would be repealed in the upcoming winter session of Parliament. In his address to the nation at 9 am, PM Modi said his government would set up a committee to address all issues adversely impacting farmers. He further appealed to protesting farmers to return to their homes. 

However, a similar sentiment as Tikri also prevailed at Singhu, another Delhi-Haryana border that has emerged as one of the epicentres’ of the farmers protest against the laws. While there was happiness all around about a battle won, many protesters said they have dug in their heels for now.

Friday was Guru Purab, the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, the first Sikh Guru — and protesters were sparse at the Tikri border. ThePrint travelled with a group of farmers from the border to their temporary shelter at Bahadurgarh in Haryana, some four km away.

Kaur was part of a group of eight women farmers from Golewala village in Punjab’s Faridkot district who have been here since 27 November 2020, with occasional rotations and trips back home.

Women have been at the forefront of this nearly year-long protest that has seen everything from clashes with police to violence on Republic Day, to multiple rounds of ‘failed’ talks with the Modi government, and the October incident at Lakhimpur Kheri, where a minister’s convoy allegedly ran over farmers during a protest. 

Asked about this violence, Sarabjit Kaur, sarpanch of Golewala, said, “Nai ji darr nai laga. Hum toh sar par kafan bandh ke aaye hain. Kisan hain, ladenge aur jeet ke hi jaenge (we are not scared, we are farmers and we will fight until we win).”


Also read: 5 reasons why farmers won the farm laws battle against Modi govt


Farmers at Tikri: ‘We know this is all due to elections’

Kaur Singh Golewala, another protester at the Tikri protest site, said the decision to repeal the farm laws was driven by the 2022 election season, which will see both Uttar Pradesh and Punjab elect their next government.

Farmers at the Tikri border after PM Modi's announcement to repeal the 3 farm laws | Tina Das | ThePrint
Farmers at the Tikri border after PM Modi’s announcement to repeal the 3 farm laws | Tina Das | ThePrint

Yeh elections ke wajeh se hain. Sarkar darr gayi hai ki UP mein haar jaenge. Hume pata hai yeh (the BJP government is scared of losing the upcoming Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, and that is why this decision has been taken),” she added.

The protesters said they are grateful for the announcement, but cautious all the same. They said they will follow whatever the Samyukta Kisan Morcha — the umbrella body of farmers’ unions leading the agitation — and others farmers’ leaders decide.

Asked about the Punjab elections, Gurnair Kaur said, “We are not uneducated people. We are watching everything and we remember. We will see whom to vote for.”

The eight women say they have been alternating between their homes in Golewala and the Tikri protest site. Their children, some of whom are in school, manage their households. 

“We have not lost anyone but whoever died is also part of our community,” said Gurnair, on the many farmers who died during the course of the protest. While it’s sowing season back in Punjab, the farmers remain here.

Nuksaan toh hai, but yeh zaruri hai (there will be losses but this is important),” said Sarabjit.

When asked if the announcement had led to any celebration, she replied that offering service at a langar was the celebration they had. But it is too early to celebrate, she said. “Dastakhat karwake jaenge tab hoga (We will celebrate once the decision to repeal farm laws is notified).”

Around 100 farmers from her village, she added, would arrive at Tikri between 23 and 25 November.

“We light diyas for Gurupurab back home, and yes, we know our struggle has brought us this piece of good news, but we will wait for developments,” she said.


Also read: In its 2 terms, Modi govt has now repealed 2 contentious legislations before assembly polls


Farmers at Singhu: ‘We will not give up’

Singhu, one of the other site of the farmers’ protest, also wore a deserted look Friday as many farmers were back in their villages, sowing seeds. A loudspeaker played kirtan — intended to encourage harmony among the protesters — continuously.

Farmers from Haryana and Punjab at the Singhu border have vowed to continue working together to get the farm laws withdrawn in Parliament | Tina Das | ThePrint
Farmers from Haryana and Punjab at the Singhu border have vowed to continue working together to get the farm laws withdrawn in Parliament | Tina Das | ThePrint

Avtar Singh, a member of the Bharatiya Kisan Union from Purkhali, Punjab, said the farmers would be back in one or two days. They had left only for the sowing season, he added, before suggesting that some of their issues remain to be resolved.

“As many as 700 farmers have died and PM Modi said nothing,” he said, when asked if he was happy about the announcement. “We won’t leave until the farm laws are repealed and the MSP matter is solved. We have built a pakka latrine-bathroom. This is our home till we get our dues.” 

Rupa Ram, from Mohanpur village in Kurukshetra, Haryana, said, “Modi ji ke saare vaade, chahe MSP ya naukri ke, jhoothe hai. Ab bol rahe hain kanoon radd karenge, pata nai karega ya nai (PM Modi has not kept his promises about MSP or jobs. I don’t know if he will follow through with this promise of repealing the farm laws).”

Avtar said the BJP government tried to make farmers from Haryana and Punjab fight by bringing up inter-state issues such as water disputes. “Ab samajh aa gaya, yeh bhaichara nai tootega. Hum saath mein ladai karenge (this brotherhood can’t be broken, we will fight together),” he said.

Rajen Sharma, a farmer from Ambala, Haryana, said “Sabke saath aur koshish ke wajeh se aaj Modi ji ne galti maani (it is because of everyone’s effort that Modi ji has admitted his mistake).” 

Garmeet Singh and Harveer Singh, both from Majri, Haryana, said the crisis has actually deepened the bond among farmers across the two states. It’s a bond that will be cherished even after the fight is over, they added.

Like Sarabjit in Tikri, Avtar and the other farmers at Singhu said they would stay as long as they had to for all the changes to be implemented.  “Aise nahi jaenge hum. Likh ke denge, tab jaenge,” Avtar added.

(Edited by Rohan Manoj)


Also read: Protests, failed talks, violence, deaths — timeline of farm laws before Modi govt’s U-turn


 

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