After the violence that marred the tractor rally of 26 January, the ‘chakka jam’ organised by SKM remained a peaceful affair
The day of chakka jam on February 6 called for by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) things remained calm at the Singhu border – perhaps unusually so for the security personnel who had been heavily laid out, securing the area around.
But if the lull points to enthusiasm losing its presence, one need only look just a little longer. Perhaps what best defines how persistent the protest against the three farm laws have come to be is seeing those who have remained for over two months, and then those who enter its manned gates to join in.
Protestors believe that the government has tried it’s best to hinder people’s efforts in drumming up support. That is by way of suspending internet at the Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur borders ‘to maintain law and order’ from January 31 to February 2 and then again on February 6 for the ‘Chakka jam’. This means sharing videos and messages over WhatsApp – which has around 400 million users in India – would be impossible.
But solutions are found, says Ammy Gill who has remained at Singhu since the protest began. He now uses a Wi-Fi routed through a friend and fellow protestor to share videos of his poetry on the protest from here. “Whatever the government does”, he says, “we will have an answer for it”.
We asked about reports on people leaving the protest site which now extends to about 10 kilometre of tents and tractors. He believed this is something fabricated by the media. “Our villagers who can’t be here the whole time decided to come on January 26th (for the tractor rally) and they were to return after that. But the media started saying support is leaving, people are leaving (after the 26 January saw violent clashes between police and protestors). Even if people are leaving, new ones are coming. Then they (government) closed the internet, they don’t want us to show that everything is fine here.”
“People say you don’t show aggression, you are just sitting quietly. But this is a war of patience; everyone knows a war with arms but we will show what patience is, and how a war of patience is.”
‘Thank Modi for uniting us’
The Delhi Police were prepared for unrest at Delhi’s several entry points, its central areas – with barricading around key places and closure of 10 metro stations – along with reinforcements at Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur borders.
For all the exaggerated security measures even at the Singhu border, the chakka jam – to block national and state highways from 12-3 pm – was a restful affair.
The entry to Singhu is protected one side by a barrage of security forces and barricades, and on the other side by farmers. They are protecting their site from an attack like that on January 29, where about 200 people claiming to be locals pelted stones and went on to clash with the protestors.
We passed through three layers of security barricades but were turned away on the fourth – media too is not allowed. But there is a way through the village, farmland, and small shops, taking an extra four kilometre. Crossing over we met a group of protestors protecting one side of the entryway, every hour of every day, and night.
But despite what the security of the area may try and spell, Singhu looks very much like a small town. With people sitting around in tents, men and women who have set up carts or even a bedsheet on the ground to sell their wares – which ranges from badges of ‘I love kisan’ to books, hairdryers and speakers.
What is different are the two stages where people give speeches of unity, of succeeding against the government’s enforced laws. Plays are performed by young men and women, sloganeering and music ringing out from the speakers around.
On the day of the chakka jam, just as a speech was underway and lunchtime was around the corner, a group of 105 people from Jharkhand entered the Singhu border. Mahavir Murmu, who was leading the group said, “We were supporting farmers’ protests from day one. And organising events to mobilise farmers about this issue. Everyone is protesting against this bill, both landless and landholding tribals,”
The group, which will remain at the site for 10 days, discussed PM Narendra Modi’s decision to not repeal the three farm laws they oppose and that it has had a positive effect. “In a way we want to thank him. He first divided us, and now we are all together. He would say akhand bharat (united India) and now we are truly united.”
Jaswant Singh, one of the participants went on to point out that in the 105 people representing Jharkhand’s farmers there were Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims, and Adivasis. It should be noted that the group had political party members of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM). Since the protest against the laws have begun at the borders of Delhi, there have been several parties who have shown their support with MPs, MLAs visiting sites like Singhu and Ghazipur.
Gurmeet Gill of the JMM, a political party currently in power in Jharkhand (through an alliance with Congress and RJD) reiterated Jaswant, citing everyone was together in this protest. “Since this government came to power, they have tried and divide us by way of Hindu-Muslim, Sikh-Hindu, this is their policy. But this protest is of all the farmers and farmers have no religion, we are all together”.