Image: Karuna John / SabrangIndia
Tikri Kalan belongs more to Haryana in its culture than it does to Delhi. It is the last Delhi stop on the green-line metro, before Bahadurgarh marks entry into Haryana, and has found itself now proudly, and quietly supporting the ongoing farmers struggle. The revolution is at their doorstep. Literally.
As Delhi police and central security agencies continue to intensify the barricading on the border, adding concrete slabs, parking large vehicles, adding armed security cover stretching this to well over 500 meters into Delhi, the urban village’s lanes are the only way to reach the protest area. From some open front doors you can see village elders sitting over the hookah, discussing ‘why Modi is quiet’, others go to the protest and listen to the speeches whenever they get some time. Yet others open their doors quietly to the women protesters who sometimes come to use the bathroom, or to change their clothes.
“The people here are very kind,” said a woman protest, who sleeps in the tent but goes once in a while to change into fresh clothes, “The women there often offer us tea, and in turn I invite them to our protest, at least to share our langar.” There are sign boards on display that lead you to the protest site, if you miss these, ask anyone, many will volunteer to take you there themselves.
It is indeed the women, who are the strength of the protest there, as well as the silent supporters from behind closed doors of Tikri Kalan colony, as well as scores of villages deeper into Haryana. They make sure the men folk carry food, milk, firewood, soap, clothes to share at the protest, vehicle loads of which are seen throughout the day. Many women farmers, farm workers, anganwadi workers, especially from Punjab, have been sitting on dharna here for the past two months.
“I do not own farmland, but my uncle does, I am here because I owe it to all the farmers who grow the food we eat. That is why me and my four sisters are all here, with our kids, and I am on a hunger strike today along with all the women here. The government has to listen to us,” says Harjeet Kaur from Punjab.
While her sister-in-law has gone back home to take care of an unwell nephew, the other kids are here. A niece takes photos of the speakers, her son and nephew work as child volunteers, handing out snacks or water and everyone sleeps in the trolleys. “I think school is important, but this is even more important,” say the young men, who want to be ‘farmers and leaders and many things’ when they grow up.
This is one of the more difficult venues of the ‘farmers revolution’ movement that is on a peaceful demonstration, on Delhi’s borders, demanding the repeal of the three Farm Acts. Here at Tikri Kalan, the road is very narrow, the open drains on the edge of the road are often choked and stinking, and a metro line runs overhead casting a cold shadow during the winter sun, all this has added to the police barricades sort of surrounds the protest. At night even when there is no rain the dew condenses and drips into the trolleys. Yet it continues to build, deeper into the Haryana side, well past Bahadurgarh, and then often turns into the bypass some ten kilometres further into the border. As the armed security forces with their stock of tear gas shells keep an eye, the supplies and supporters keep pouring in from Haryana all day, well into the evening.
Hookahs are shared, and mixed groups hold discussions on the sidelines. All of them keep an eye on social media, and independent media for news updates. They do not trust the so-called ‘national media’ anymore.
“We will talk to you only, you must promise you will not give any information to the — (name withheld) channel,” says a protestor to this writer even as another looks up SabrangIndia’s extensive coverage of the farmers protest 2020-21.
The sit-in protest at Tikri Kalan has also got massive support from Haryana Khaps, or community governing bodies. Many leaders pour in, with supplies, funds collected from the villages under their community jurisdiction, and of course supplies and volunteers. All of them want to take part in the Republic Day celebrations on January 26, and will “march according to the directions given by the movements leaders.”
Some hold impromptu ‘marches’ in small groups too. Ex-army men did one. As did a caravan of vehicles that came in the evening from Haryana, so did the young men from the village who came to lend support, and bring provisions. Most enthusiastic were another group of older women who suddenly got together and marched down from Bahadurgarh metro station to Tikri border shouring pro farmer slogans and pledging support. There were no leaders as such, they marched holding farmer union flags, and of course the Tricolour.
Sunil Gulia, who heads the influential Gulia Khap 84, has parked his ‘Shakti Vahan’, a massive modified tractor whose trolley is fitted with plush seats, at the petrol pump on the side of the protest. He and the other khap leaders sit nearby and talk, as many come down to listen and gawk at this gant vehicle which has never been seen before.
“The tractor is a farmers pride, I want to show everyone that a farmers can use the tractor in the field as well as customise it into a luxury vehicle,” says Gulia adding that “Some people want to see the farmers as poor, hungry and illiterate, but that is not the case. Times have changed, we have education, we work hard, and we can afford luxuries and support our communities.” He added, “The farmers are fighting for what is their right, and for everyone else.”
Speaking about his customised vehicle, he says, “Dont ask the price, I have a luxury car which is more expensive, but this will seat more. It will carry the national flag high and be a part of our Republic Day parade if the leaders instruct.” Gulia often spends the night at the border with the other farmers. “Our khap is committed to the cause of farmers. We will only leave the Tikri border when we win,” he said.
“All the government has to do is listen to the simple demand made by us,” added a farmer, “I promise I will leave that day, I even donate all my blankets and the food items I have here for you when we leave.”
All images are by Karuna John / SabrangIndia