With motivational protest songs celebrating the Punjabi spirit and a banner declaring – Paidal Rosh March, a tractor-trolley slowly tags after a group of 12 farmers on way to Delhi on foot to protest Centre’s farm laws. It’s a seven-day journey that began three days ago from Ludhiana’s Khandoor village and will cover 310 kms to culminate at the capital’s gates on January 13.
As the group walks in the bitter cold, the speakers mounted on the tractor keep the spirits up with intermittent chants of ‘Waheguru’.
The journey breaks only at night, when the trolley is parked at a safe spot and turned into a makeshift shelter for the twelve that include a 60-year-old, Chamkaur Singh, as the oldest participant, and Prabhjot Singh (20) as the youngest. The group is led by their village sarpanch’s son, Jasvir Singh Deol (54).
During the day, the trolley follows them on the highway carrying all the basic needs such as grocery, battery for charging mobile phones and quilts.
While walking towards Delhi during their ‘Paidal Rosh March’, the group interacts with people trying to sensitise them about farmers’ issues and why they are protesting.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Jasvir Singh Deol alias Pappu, member panchayat whose mother Surinder Kaur is village sarpanch, said that they had started from their village, Khandoor, on Thursday.
The group till Saturday late had reached Jind via Dehlon, Malerkotla, Sangrur, Patran in Punjab and then Khanauri in Haryana. “We will be sleeping inside trolley at a fuel station in Jind tonight,” said Deol.
He added: “We sleep inside the trolley and are carrying basic stuff such as a stove, tea leaves and sugar. We eat food or get it packed from wherever the langar is available on the way. Since we started from Ludhiana, people on the way have been so kind that they keep serving us food/tea.”
Deol said that the main motive behind starting the foot march towards Delhi was to spread the message of farmers among people who still do not know why farmers are on agitation path against the Narendra Modi government.
“Wherever we stop on the way, people interact with us and we talk to them. We discuss our issues and our reason for protest. Most farmers are sitting on protest but it is important to move and spread our message among those too who aren’t aware of our issues. It’s not that we do not have transport facilities such as cars, tractors etc to reach Delhi but we chose to walk because it conveys our message more strongly and we can also interact with others on the way,” he said.
Deol, however, said that they try to cover at least 50 kms a day so as to reach Delhi borders by January 13.
“There is an option to sit inside the trolley. But most in the group are so enthusiastic that they keep walking. We try to cover at least 40-50 kms a day including 5-10 km on trolley if road is bad or all of us are tired,” he said.
Deol said that though his mother is associated with Congress, their protest march does not have any ‘political stamp’.
“It is about being a farmer first. Our protest march is not having the label of any political party. The slogan written on our banner is – ‘Kisan Mazdoor Ekta Zindabad’. Modi government is working only for the corporates and we are on the mission to tell people about it,” he said.
“We are also telling people that farmers have adopted a peaceful path to protest in a democracy. We do not believe in hooliganism and violence,” he said.
Deol said that the oldest member in the group — Chamkaur Singh (60) hardly sits in the trolley despite repeated insistence.
“He is the most active and physically fit among all of us. He keeps walking even as we request him to sit in trolley for some time,” said Deol.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Chamkaur Singh said that he doesn’t face any health issue while walking and it is his way to fight for his right as a farmer.
“Koi dikkat nahi hai mainu. Koi dard ni. Saade haq di ladaai hai (There is no issue at all. I don’t feel any pain. It is a fight for our right),” said Chamkaur Singh.
“I have studied only till class 5. Poori umar kisaani kitti hai. Jadon to jammey hain kisaan haan.. (I have done farming throughout my life. I am a farmer since I was born),” he said, adding: “These three laws are being imposed on us. All we want is our system of Minimum Support Price (MSP) to continue the way it is going on. People on the way have been so loving that they pack langar food for us and we did not had to cook till now. Other group members keep insisting me to sit inside trolley and rest but I prefer to walk. Saadey haq di ladaai lai turna hai (We have to walk for our right).”
Another group member Jaswant Singh (45) said that covering 310 kms on foot from Ludhiana to Delhi doesn’t seem like an uphill task now with the target being crystal clear.
“Hun sirf Dilli dikhdi hai (All we can see now is Delhi),” he said.