Farmers' protest: Crowd visibly thin at protest sites; leaders say agitation still strong
New Delhi, Jan 28: The crowd at the protest sites in Delhi's Singhu and Tikri borders was visibly thin on Thursday two days after the tractor parade turned violent, even though the farmer unions said it was because the protesters, who had come to the national capital to take part in January 26 march, have returned home.
Additional police personnel were deployed at the Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur borders -- the three main sites where farmers have been protesting the Centre''s new farm laws -- as a preventive measure in the view of the violence on Republic Day that left 394 policemen injured and one protestor dead.
The Singhu border, one of the major protest sites that has been home to thousands of farmers for over two months, was noticeably less populated on Thursday than what it used to be before the Republic day, or even before that.
The number of tractors have reduced, and so have the protestors, while reaching from one end to the other end of the street, that were chock-a-block till last week, can be now done in no time.
Farmers said it was because the protestors who had come to Delhi specifically to participate in the tractor parade on January 26 have returned home.
"There is no dearth in our spirits to continue our fight against the three farm laws. The fact that Singhu looks empty is a mere optical illusion.
"Just because there were too many people in the run up to the parade, now that they have gone back, it looks like this," said Baldev Singh, general secretary, All India Kisan Sabha.
The Sanyukta Kisan Morcha, however, on the eve of Republic Day had announced that all the farmers, who would join the tractor march, would stay back and living arrangements would be made for them.
According to Baldev Singh, the protest site also appeared to be less crowded because there were protestors who had been camping here since the very first day, and had waited till Republic Day before returning home.
"But then some other members of their families will join us. The protest is only getting stronger," Baldev Singh said.
The agitation to demand the repeal of the three laws was their "single point agenda" and they were not going to move from Singhu until they are met, added Ashwini Kumar, district president, Punjab Kisan Union.
Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan) president Joginder Singh Urgrahan, whose organisation has been leading protest at the Tikri border, said there were many people who had come to Delhi to participate in the tractor parade and now they have left for their home. That''s why the site appears to be less crowded.
It is perhaps the low population at the Singhu border that has caused several service providers to temporarily shut shop, including langars, ironing service, and the Kissan Mall.
At the Singhu protest site, most dismissed the idea of the thinning crowd and said the services were unavailable because they were restocking supplies.
"The agitation is as strong as ever. People are going home and returning. The Kissan Mall is shut today only because we are waiting for some fresh supplies. It will be open again from tomorrow," said a volunteer of Khalsa Aid that runs the mall.
A similar response was shared by Roshan Singh, who has been running a langar serving breakfast, lunch and dinner at the site for nearly two months.
On Thursday afternoon, the langar was deserted and the stoves were out.
"We served food in the morning but are closed now because we ran out of products. Our enthusiasm about the protest has not at all decreased," he said.
The set up where the ironing services were being provided has simply disappeared.
For Gurjeet Singh, a farmer from Patiala, the movement continues to remain solid.
While he arrived at Singhu in November with a group of 20, only five are currently present at the site.
"Many people have just gone back to take care of things at home. Like one person in our group has gone back for his sister''s wedding, another has gone back because of a medical issue.
"What happened on Republic Day was the government''s way of maligning our movement, but it has had no impact whatsoever on the enthusiasm of our agitation and we are stronger than ever," he said.
As far as the future of the farmers protest is concerned, the February 1 farmers march to the Parliament stands postponed, and farmer leaders are chalking out their further strategy.
Meanwhile, a fast would be observed on January 30, the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, said Baldev Singh.
Nearly 400 policemen were injured during the tractor parade of the farmers who have been protesting against three central farm laws at Delhi''s borders since late November.
The Delhi Police on Wednesday had alleged that farmer leaders made inflammatory speeches and were involved in the violence during the tractor parade, as it warned that no culprit will be spared.
The police have filed 33 FIRs in connection with the violence during the rally. Nineteen people have been arrested and around 50 detained. Thirty-seven farmer leaders have also been named in an FIR.