NEW DELHI: If one expected the farmer agitation to lose steam after the Republic Day fracas, the rejuvenated participation of protesters at the Ghazipur site will prove that view wrong.
The last two days have seen the agitation gaining in strength, with more and more from different districts of Uttar Pradesh joining those who had been camping there for several weeks. Security has been beefed up, internet service suspended and yet, one can see tents being erected to accommodate the new arrivals. “There is an in-flow of farmers to the protest site. At least 50 new tents have been set up since the morning and raw materials like bamboo sticks, plastic sheets, mattresses are being arranged to accommodate the crowd.
The disrespect the government has shown to the farmers and our agitation is not acceptable” said Ashish Gujjar from Shajahanpur of Uttar Pradesh. On the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, members of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha observed Sadbhavna Diwas at the protest site. National spokesperson of Bhartiya Kisan Union, Rakesh Tikait is emerging as the face of the farmers.
The Mahapanchayat in Muzaffarnagar organised by Rakesh’s brother Naresh Tikait, in which more farmers decided to join the protesters, has become a talking point. Amid all this, additional tables are set up at the food counters to cater to the growing numbers. Announcements are made from the main stage to stay ‘organised’ and ‘peaceful’.
There are also fiery speeches with slogans like ‘Tikait versus dacoit’ and ‘Kisan Samman’. These can be heard from a distance at Ghazipur. Time limits have been set for speeches, so that more speakers can express their views. People are writing their names on chits and making donations. Their names are then being announced and they are thanked for their contributions. Also, it’s difficult to miss strong sentiments against the BJP government.
Although internet services have been suspended, farmers continue to shoot videos from mobile phones. Uttar Pradesh Police has increased vigil at the entries and exits of the protest site. No one is stopped from entering, but some mild probing is being done before allowing entry. While a day earlier at Singhu border some people claiming to be local residents clashed with protestors and damaged their tents, at Ghazipur border scenes are different. Autorickshaw drivers, security guards, daily wagers from establishments around the protest site are expressing solidarity with the protests, without doing it openly.
“We enjoy the support of locals, they come and do ‘sewa’ at our protest site. What happened at Singhu was not done by the locals. They were goons hired by BJP leaders to vitiate the atmosphere and create a divide among Indians. This is a ploy and we are aware of it. BJP should stop doing it now because it will not work. No one calls us anti-nationals except for BJP members. They should rather figure out what is right and repeal the three farm laws,” said Kulwant Singh from Uttarakhand, who is protesting at Ghazipur border.