Why did Delhi Police mislead us, not stop the outsiders who initially broke the barricades: Farmers

Those who came to create trouble on January 26, have all vanished from here, say hundreds still sitting in protest at Ghaziabad-Delhi border

farmersImage: Karuna John / SabrangIndia

It was a day of mourning the farmers protest at Ghazipur. It was much quieter than usual, and hundreds of farmers gathered at the main stage to pray for Navreet Singh, 27, whose body had been brought here the night before before it was taken to his home in Bilaspur, Rampur in Uttar Pradesh.

Hundreds have accompanied that procession and will return after the final rites are over. Hundreds remain, and though none of the daily routines of making and serving langar, managing the everyday activities of the various sections that keep the Ghaziabad border protest site functioning have stopped, there is a certain shift in mood.

However, they say that they will not let Singh’s death, which is being commemorated as martyrdom here, go to waste. SabrangIndia spoke to scores still sitting here peacefully, many more who had gone for the tractor rally peacefully on the border routes, and still more who had found themselves in the middle of the police crackdown with tear gas and lathis. Most had followed a few tractors that they claimed belonged to outsiders who had just come a day before, and unlike the farmers who had been here on protest this long, these new tractors did not have trailers or supplies, indicating they were here just for a day. The farmers, most of whom returned from Asjshardham, ITO, Red Fort or wherever they found an exit route, were back in their tents by nightfall. Many had gotten lost when they tried to find their way back on foot. “We were helped by the locals who came out with fruits and waters and told us the way to get back to Ghazipur,” said a farmer, from Uttar Pradesh.

 “I will never forget what I saw yesterday [January 26],” said another elderly farmer, a Sikh. “It reminded me of what had happened in India in 1984, we cannot let it happen again. The government is to be blamed for what happened then, and what happened yesterday. I have devoted my life for the nation as a farmer, I want answers from the government,” he said, declining to identify himself. This refusal, though understandable, is also a new thing at the protest. Before January 26, many were eager to identify their names, and the names of their villages. Eager that the news reached home so the family knows they are going strong, and “more people are inspired by us to come and join.” Now many are feeling it is not worth sharing their names, as there is also apprehension that the government, especially in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Haryana may intensify action against the families of those sitting in protest in Delhi, said some farmers. 

However, none of them are planning to turn back. If anything, they are more determined than ever. “We are not scared at all, the protest is going to get even stronger in a few days. We will just listen to our leaders and will sit here till the laws are taken back,” said a woman protestor who was at the meeting with her daughter-in-law and her younger grandson, the elder one a 10 year old has been sent back home today as he too got tear gassed. “He will be back soon once his eyes and throat get better,” said his determined mother. 

The are has hundreds of farmers; Sikh, Hindu, Muslim… hailing from Uttar Pradesh and Utatrakhand, along with Haryana and some from Rajasthan. They now identify with one ‘religion’ that is ‘kisan’. All of them prayed as one, when the Sikh prayers were recited, each in his own way. On the stage were Buddhist monks, Jaat elders, and Sikh community leaders, many of whom were sitting on a relay hunger strike, that too has been going on for well over a month. Many more in the audience did not eat on January 27, as they were grieving the death of one of their own.

“We are sad, but we are not defeated. If the officials think one man has died and we will return, they are wrong,” said a woman farmer. “It was the police  tear gas that hit Navreet,” said a farmer who was at ITO, adding, “It probably was an expired shell and hit his eye, he lost control of the steering wheel and then hit the police barricade that was pushed to stop him.” 

FarmersImage: Karuna John / SabrangIndia

Additional police deployment has been called at the two ends of the protest, it has by now reached a length of over eight kilometers along the NH9/NH24 the Delhi-Meerut expressway. There is additional patrolling within the protest zone by police in uniform and in plain clothes. As the farmers have maintained it was outsiders or miscreants, some said they came from UP, who started breaching the barricades the volunteers too are on high alert.

They too admit that as the tractors followed each other down to Akshradham some amount of mob mentality did take over many young people. However they were controlled, said volunteers. Many more found themselves on the road to Red Fort, and reached there to witness the chaos, and turned back on the same road. All blame police for “misleading” those who had lost their way. Many more did go on the designated routes but also saw barricades there. 

Yadvinder Singh from Uttar Pradesh recalled, “We started from Ghazipur about 10 AM. We did not know the way, and just followed the tractor ahead. There were barricades at every step, even when the police had said we can go ahead peacefully, they should have shown us the direction to go. We reached Akshardham, we were at the back. We could not hear much, but felt the tear gas sting, and we turned back.”

Another farmer shared, “There was so much barricading, and we who do not even know Delhi routes became a part of the group that was leading. There were some outsiders who had come in smaller tractors without trolley for a day who were ahead, then they went away yesterday itself. We were going to conduct the march in the peaceful way as planned.” He further said, “The Delhi prashasan [meaning police and union government] are responsible for what happened yesterday, January 26. They let the situation get out of control. We were lost, and realised that we had reached the famous Red Fort by afternoon, there was a massive crowd there, including many policemen. We then turned back, and came to Ghazipur by some long road, some of us also got stuck at a place called ITO, where one of our brothers was martyred.”

Another added, “I have never seen such a thing in my life. I have been here for two months, everything was peaceful till yesterday. But it will be peaceful today onwards again.” Sukhbir Singh from Bulandshaher, who is on a hunger strike said, “I came here on November 27, went home for a day or two for some work. We were set to start the tractor march only at 11 AM, however there were some who had come from outside, with their own tractors and parked at the beginning of the line up. They suddenly started at 9 AM itself”. He added that the farm union leaders Jagtar Singh Bajwa, Rakesh Tikait and volunteers then  rushed to control the situation. He said, “We went with them, we managed to stop those tractors after the second barricade at Ghazipur, still many managed to race buy, then they split and went on various routes, others followed, and were out of here the same day.” Those who the farmers accused of created the chaos, have “all returned to where they came from, they are now being identified.” 

While the events of January 26 have left them shaken, the farmers say this will not derail the movement.  However they have learnt a tough lesson and now are firm that they will listen only to their top leaders, and not take directions from policemen.



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