The temperature plunges in Delhi to around 3 degrees Celsius in winter. Spare a thought for 77 year old grizzled farmer, Beant Singh who has been sleeping rough in his tractor trolley for the past two months.
Singh smiles and brushes aside any discomfort saying “mein Kisan hoon. Hamara Sara Kam Kaaj khuley asman kei neeche hota hai. Aab toh jab sarkar maney gei tabhi ghar jayengey” (I am a farmer, All my work happens outdoors. Now we will go home only when government agrees to repeal the three farm laws).
Farmers really are the salt of the earth. City dwellers like me can’t quite understand how the farmers are braving icy conditions, intermittent rains and still standing tall. Scores of them at the border often accompanied by doughty women and kids say they can’t afford to have their livelihood destroyed.
It really is a case of the immovable object meeting the irresistible force. The discomfiture of the BJP government is evident. Even the Supreme Court has observed that the government rammed through the laws in Parliamentary by voice vote when members wanted voting and without any consultation with the stakeholders.
'Who will believe such lies?'
A quite astonishingly beautiful woman sitting out in the winter Sun which seems to keep playing hide and seek tells me putting a book she was reading aside “we have always fought the Delhi Darbaar. In every family in our state we have both jawans and kisans yet they have the cheek to call us names. Who will believe such lies?”
The farmers are different from the city folk and their protests are also quite different. For example the farmers take their own food to the government negotiating meetings, squat on the floor and eat during the lunch break refusing government food.
Occasionally the ministers now join them. The food is simple and delectable. Nobody sharing it with the farmers is likely to forget that these farmers are India’s “anadata” (food providers).
Food is generously shared with all those who drop to cover the protest. “Haven’t we always ensured that India does not go hungry” says Tejpal Singh with a twinkle in his eyes.
BJP government is quite clearly on the back foot. It has tried several tactics to break the resolve of the agitating farmers. Rajnath Singh, defence minister and a man who prides himself on coming from a farmer stock held out an olive branch saying “no one can dare call our farmers Khalistani. They are patriotic”.
Singh forgot to remember that the infamous IT cell had tried to spin a Khalistani conspiracy which failed resoundingly. Significantly this was the first time that the spin factory failed resoundingly in painting the agitating farmers as “anti nationals”.
On one hand the talks continue while the government rules out the repeal of the laws demanded by the farmers. On the other hand the National Investigation Agency (NIA) is sending notices to those supporting the agitating farmers and even journalists.
But, the farmers are not ready to backdown. A rally of nearly a hundred thousand tractors is planned on Republic Day on the outskirts of Delhi. And, it is to be noted that despite huge provocation, the agitating farmers have been non-violent and displayed exemplary behaviour.
Supreme Court has held the Farm laws in abeyance and asked the farmers to speak to the committee it had set up. That appears to be a non-starter as the farmers say that all those on the committee support the laws and they will not settle for anything less than a repeal.
BJP government is finally facing resistance. It has lost its oldest ally the Akali Dal, its Haryana state government is on the brink of collapse. The farmers are sanguine. They have simple faith — work hard and enjoy the fruits of labour. Faith does give you an impenetrable armour.
But, the next time you shiver in the quilt with the heating on, remember India’s farmers are currently sleeping outside in the bitter cold.