Harvinder Singh, a Ferozepur resident in his 30s, made chapatis for the first time after reaching the Tikri border on Monday to support the farmers’ Republic Day parade.
He and the seven friends along with him had never cooked before. “But we are not shameful doing this. Now we will make gajar ki sabzi or we may have to eat the rotis with pickle if the supply of sabzi doesn’t reach us,” added Harvinder.
Like Harvinder, farmers, individuals and political groups across the Tikri protest site have set up close to 100 community kitchens ( langars ).
Over 30,000 rotis are made three times every day in these langars; now a routine since the past two months.
On Republic Day, these were managed from scratch mostly by elderly men who stayed behind, as the youth and women had left to take part in the rally.
Jugraj Singh, Pradhan of Hamidi village in Barnala district of Punjab, was peeling garlic for the vegetables to be made for the last meal of the day scheduled at 5:00pm.
“At home, our wives get everything ready. We don’t have to bother about our clothes, food or water for bathing. But here, we are working for our rights. There are so many people that it’s impossible to arrange hot water for everyone, despite having hamams (manual geysers) on the site. We have become used to bathing in cold water.
We neither feel cold, nor the heat, and we don’t even get tired,” said Jugraj. Ram Singh, 50, serving at a langar for the last two months, said, “In the morning, we gave curd, chutney made from chilli, potatoes and onion with aloo parathas to at least 100 people before they left for the parade. Every day, we get 50 litres of milk from the nearby villages in Haryana and Punjab.
We use it for drinking and set the curd for breakfast.” Their group was readying the dal for dinner and kneading the flour, so that women could make rotis. “Every evening, these women come from nearby villages and make rotis for us. If for some reason they can’t c ome, we make them on our own,” added Ram Singh. Gurpreet Singh from Jagraon in Ludhiana said, “We are making Matar Paneer for lunch, and Moong Dal for dinner.
And we provide food to 250 people three times a day.” Around noon, Harjeet Singh and his team of five men from Bathinda district were making tawa rotis for themselves. They didn’t get time to eat as they had cooked for the people who had to leave for the rally. “We have made Gajar matar sabzi and rotis, and 20 of us will eat it.” Away from their homes, farmers have made a mini home, supported by residents from the neighbouring states and likeminded organisations, and are adamant to stay on if the three farm bills are not repealed.