Far Away From Media Attention, Rural Punjab Keeps Farmers' Protest Alive

Despite the fact that the media and public have shifted their focus away from the farmers' protest due to the COVID...

Mohali“Sannu saal ho chaleya, Modi da pit syapa kardey” (‘We’ve been crying against Modi for over a year now but we won’t stop’), exclaimed Gurpreet Kaur, a woman in her late thirties who is the movement in-charge at Baras village in Patiala district. Her two children and her husband accompany her everywhere.

“We have just come back from Delhi. Right now I am at a morcha near my village and our next trip to Delhi will take place after May 30,” she speaks loudly over the phone. A nearby loudspeaker at the protest site she was at kept drowning her voice. 

Gurpreet leads a village-level committee for her union, Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta-Ugrahan). She mobilises over 100 women from the village. Gurpreet is among the many people in Punjab’s rural areas who have become full-time protesters. She has not taken a break from protesting and says that she is unafraid of the consequences.

There’s a person like Gurpreet in every village of Punjab. The deep sincerity in every protester appears to be the very element that has fuelled the movement into one of the largest protests against an elected government in India...

...Bajwa is a famous Punjabi singer and quite influential. From Mohali, on May 19, he says that the farm laws must be fought to “save the existence” of farmers in India. He appeals to other artistes to re-join the movement as soon as they can. He says this while announcing the release of his new song on farmers’ movement – Hokka. The catchphrase of the song – “Dilli nu fer dovaara chaliye, dharney to hokka aaya hai” can be loosely translated to ‘let’s go to Delhi again, the movement is calling us’. 

Speaking to The Wire, Amandeep Singh Bains, who is behind the Tractor2Twitter account on the social media site, says that in the meetings with their cadre, in the last couple of months, they came to a clear conclusion that it wasn’t the right time to populate social media with content about the farmers movement, instead they took to creating COVID-19 resource kits for those in need. 

“We were bothered about decreasing media attention to the movement but soon enough we realised that social media was being used to cry for help. So religiously, for two months, we stopped what we were doing, re-aligned and helped netizens with links to oxygen cylinders, ICU beds and everything else we could. Now that the situation is a bit under control, we will populate our channels differently.” 

Sikh diaspora and international support 

While there have been calls for the revival of the movement by artistes, the cadre and the farmers’ union leaders, a large part of the Sikh diaspora feel the union leaders should ‘reach a settlement’ with the government. Amaan Bali, a Sikh activist and author, believes that the protest has been allowed to go on without resolution for far too long. He was active in mobilising the diaspora on the internet and amplifying international support for the movement during the peak of the farmers’ agitation. 

“I am in close contact with many influential individuals from the Sikh diaspora all over the world. Some have lakhs of followers on social media and I can say on behalf of them that the diaspora feels the farmers should now reach a settlement with the government. This has gone for far too long. Most of us don’t expect the government to repeal the laws entirely. It has to be two steps forward and one step back. Some of us are citizens of progressive countries, we have families, old people back home and are genuinely concerned about the situation of coronavirus as well”. 

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