New Delhi: For protesting farmers on the Delhi borders, Lohri festivities this time around were marked by burning copies of three Central farm laws in the bonfires which are an integral part of the harvest festival.
The farmers, who have been camping on the borders of the National Capital since the last week of November, amidst punishing weather, used the festive occasion to mark their protest in an ingenious way. However, they stayed away from folk song-and-dance, which is characteristic of Lohri, in tune with the sombre mood resulting from the deaths of more than 70 protesters opposed to the farm laws.
In the run-up to Lohri celebrated on Wednesday, farmers’ unions distributed copies of the recently enacted farm laws through WhatsApp and by other means. In some cases, even physical copies were distributed.
On Wednesday night, groups of farmers congregated around several bonfires at the Singhu and Chilla borders, where protests are ongoing under the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha and the Bharatiya Kisan Union respectively. Farmers affiliated to the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Lok Shakti) joined in with a similar protest at the Dalit Prerna Sthal in Noida. Similar protests were also witnessed in several cities and towns of Punjab and Haryana.
Jaggery, popcorn, rewri were distributed as some of the family members of protesting farmers from Punjab and Haryana joined in.
Farmers were not deterred by bone-chilling weather, as night-time temperatures dipped to 5°C and accompanied by dense fog in the morning hours.
Exasperated over the Centre’s tepid response to their protest, and frustrated by the Supreme Court’s committee of supporters of the law to mitigate the situation, some of the farmers said they might even end up celebrating Baisakhi on roads, another harvest festival of Punjab celebrated in April every year.
“This protest is not just a farmers’ protest, it is a citizen’s protest. The way it is going with the government not looking to repeal the laws, we will also not move. Sirf Lohri nahi, lagta hai baisakhi bhi yahin manani padegi (Not just Lohri, looks like we will have to celebrate Baisakhi here too),” Harpreet Singh, a farmer from a village from Chandigarh, has been quoted as saying by the Indian Express.
While farmers have welcomed Tuesday’s decision of the Supreme Court to stay the implementation of the new farm laws, they are sceptical of the four-member panel constituted by the court to resolve the deadlock between protesters and the Centre.
Bhupinder Singh Mann, President of Bhartiya Kisan Union; Anil Ghanwat, President of Shetkari Sangthana, Maharashtra; Pramod Kumar Joshi, director for South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute, and agriculture economist Ashok Gulati have been named in the panel.
“We mean no contempt of the apex court but…it is like getting cats to guard your milk,” BKU (Lok Shakti) spokesperson Shailesh Kumar Giri said, expressing apprehension over the panel’s neutrality on the issue.
BKU (Bhanu) and BKU (Lok Shakti), both with an influence in Uttar Pradesh, are not a part of the Sanyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of 40 farmers unions, which are leading the charge at Delhi’s border points in Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur, but have extended their support to the cause.
Thousands of farmers are currently staying put at Delhi’s borders with Haryana and Uttar Pradesh in protest against the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
The protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that these laws would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price system, leaving them at the “mercy” of big corporations.
(With PTI inputs)