Farmers protesting on both sides of Delhi-Haryana border have asserted that they are self-sufficient in carrying on their agitation against the new farm laws, with some saying their NRI relatives have also extended support to sustain the momentum of the demonstration.
Drawn from several parts of Punjab, aggrieved farmers have converged on an unprecedented scale at Delhi’s Singhu and Tikri borders, camping on roads and braving the cold at night to press for their demands.
The peasant have come to the protest site stocked up with fruits, vegetables and other household items, and local residents and volunteer groups, besides members of a gurudwara nearby Singhu Border have been offering supplies to replenish the stock.
Many farmers, who have been staying put at the site said their own families and others, who are non-resident Indians, have reached out and showed solidarity with the protesting peasants.
“I have a family member living in Canada, and he called me to tell that he is there to support them with funds and other ways, as much as possible. In our village in Tarn Taran, many people have NRI family members, and they too have received support from them,” said Naunihal Singh of Kisan Sangharsh Committee, Punjab.
He rode from Patti in Tarn Taran district in Punjab, about 500 km from Delhi border, on a tractor, accompanied by about 20 other farmers, including a ‘Nihang’ Sikhs, on the day one of the protest.
Punjab’s farmers sow their seeds in India, but “our family members are scattered across the world,” he said.
A sizeable population of NRIs or foreign citizens of Indian-origin, with roots in Punjab, are based in Canada, including in Toronto and Vancouver; the UK, the US, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and other countries.
Tarlochan Singh Safri, 54, sporting a bright blue turban, shiny pair of shades and a flowing white beard, sat in his Mitsubishi SUV, to charge his mobile phone, a Bharat Kisan Union flag placed in a seat corner.
“Punjab has made sacrifices for India, always, whether as farmers or freedom fighter. Bhagat Singh gave up his life for Azadi, and so many youth from Punjab get enrolled in the armed forces everywhere. Some people are branding us as terrorists.
Is that what our ancestors made the sacrifices for,” he asked.
Safri, a farmer and a businessman said many of the protesting farmers, who have come to the border, have family members or friends who are NRIs, and they are prosperous families, but still they have come here to show solidarity with other farmers.
“I have two of my family members in Canada. These are young generation, and they are telling, we should soldier on and not give up, and they are standing behind us. Some NRIs have sent money, others have pledged to send funds if needed. They are giving us big moral support, even if they are staying far away from their homeland,” he asserted.
On Saturday, it was yet another day of protest at Singhu and Tikri Border sites, even as farmers’ leaders held another round of talk with the government representatives, seeking a way out of the crisis, even though the dialogue remained inconclusive.
The hardships faced in reaching the protest site and the common demand of repealing of the new farm laws, have galvanised the farmers with a tremendous sense of solidarity and camaraderie.
Some had to literally “move earth” and “push boulders” to overcome obstacles on the way to Delhi from Punjab, while other got a helping hand from their brethren in Haryana.
Several farmers from Haryana wearing the trademark green ‘pagdi’ (turban) sat in circles around a traditional hukka that was rotated among them, as they also sought complete repeal of what they alleged was a “naya kala kanoon” that will “wreck” the lives of farmers.
But support of NRIs have surely enthused the spirit of the protesting farmer, for many of whom now their tractor-trolleys are now their temporary homes, shared with others.
The back of the tractor-trolley in which Naunihal Singh of Kisan Sangharsh Committee, and other fellow farmers came from Tarn Taran has a design of a flag of Canada embossed on it surrounded by two printed flags of Khalsa Panth.
Many farmers, who did not wish to be named, said, some NRIs have already sent funds to farmers and others are helping through material and medical aid.
At the protest site, fiery speeches, fluttering flags of Bharat Kisan Union and other peasant bodies, and spirited ‘langars’ that invited everyone to join in, added to the charged atmosphere.
Cries of ‘Saada Haq, Aithe Rakh’, ‘Jo Bole So Nihal’ and ‘Kisan Union Ekta Zindabad’ rent the air throughout the day, as coloured turbans of protesting farmers added vibrancy to the scene of agitation.
Many NRIs have taken to Twitter and other social media to express their solidarity with the protests and expressed their desire to extend help to farmers picketing at the border.
“This is a struggle for our rights and for our dignity. We don’t want to be the mercy of the corporate firms, we will take bullets but not buckle under any pressure of the government. We are proud farmers,” said Safri.