Armed with hope and a revolutionary poem by noted Punjabi poet ”Pash”, a farmer cycled nearly 400 km from Fardikot to Delhi’s Tikri border to join the massive protest against the new farm laws.
Wearing a kurta-pyjama with a sleeveless warm jacket and sporting a bright green turban, Pal Sandhu, a resident of Rameana village in Faridkot district of Punjab, on Monday listened intently to the speeches made by farmer leaders at the protest site near the Delhi-Haryana border.
His cycle, a new model decked up with cardboards displaying the poem ”Sab Ton Khatarnak” (the most dangerous) in Punjabi by Avtar Singh Sandhu or ”Pash” as the revolutionary was famously known, attracted the attention of protesters and passers-by, many of whom took pictures with him.
“I felt restless back home,” the 45-year-old said.
“I could not control myself after knowing about the condition of my fellow farmers who are braving the chilling winter and so many difficulties for a common goal. My brother had come a few days ago in a tractor-trolley, which is parked at the Tikri border protest site. I decided to leave too and rode till here on a bicycle,” Pal Sandhu told PTI.
The Faridkot farmer said he had started from his home on December 19 at 8 AM and rode till 6:30 PM that day before resting.
“The next day, I started early at 6 AM from mid-way, and then reached Tikri Border protest site at around 6:30 PM yesterday. When one is pumped up with a spirit of shared struggle, tiredness doesn’t come. We are farmers, hardship is our life,” he said.
Asked how he managed to get food for two days to sustain his long journey, Sandhu, who has a wife and son back home, said, “sab Guru ki kripa se ho gaya (it was managed with the blessings of the Guru)”.
“On the way, people saw the Bharat Kisan Union flag planted on my cycle and they gave me food and hot water. Many more people are travelling every day to join the protests at Tikri and Singhu borders. There is a feeling of solidarity among people right now,” he said.
Reading aloud the revolutionary poem by ”Pash” to those gathered around him, he explained why he chose to carry placards with its verses written on them.
“Pash was a visionary and raised his voice against oppression and injustice. Today, if we sit at home and not become part of this movement, then we are ”living dead”… as the poet had said, ”murda shanti se bhar jana”. We are all here, because we farmers don’t want our dreams to become nightmares”.
”Sab Ton Khatarnak”, one of the most iconic works of contemporary poetry with trenchant words, has become a slogan of resistance at many protests. Poems by ”Pash” are often carried on placards and banners in protest rallies across the country.
At the Tikri border area, Monday was yet another day of protest since the agitation began on November 26. Delhi police and paramilitary personnel kept a strict vigil as farmer leaders vociferously reiterated their demand of repealing of all three new farm laws, alleging that they were enacted to benefit big corporate companies.
Amid the milling crowd, many youths carried posters bearing images of freedom fighter Bhagat Singh and chanted the Sikhism slogan ”Jo Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal” to enthuse protesters in the biting Delhi cold.
Mangat Singh, 72, another farmer from Punjab who has been camping at the Delhi border since the beginning of the agitation, said, “Farmers are not mute crops who can be cut at will. We know the struggles of out forefathers and leaders in the past, and we are ready for the long haul”.
On Monday, a group of old women from Haryana, wearing saffron cloth over their dresses and sporting badges bearing the image of Bhagat Singh, walked around the protest site at the Tikri border to show solidarity with the farmers.
“They are all wearing ”kesari” (saffron) because they treat their children as revolutionaries, and themselves as mothers of Bhagat Singh. Women joining the protest has taken this agitation to another level,” Sandhu said.
Baldev Kaur, Sarabjit Kaur and Sadbir Kaur, all in their 60s, who have come from Sirsa district in Haryana, interacted with the other protesters and raised pro-farmer and anti-government slogans.
“We are about 40-50 women who came together from Sirsa yesterday… ”Hum haq leke jawangi yehan se” (we will go only after claiming our rights), and the new farm laws have to go,” said Sarabjit Kaur.
Sandhu rued that a section of people are trying to “delegitimise our movement”, and branded the protesting farmers as “terrorists”. He then held the hands of a fellow farmer and said, “See these hands, dry and rough, are these the hands of a terrorist? These are the hands of a hard-working farmer”.