It’s a foggy Wednesday morning and a re-purposed trailer, with almost dozen elderly men sitting cross-legged and singing morning hymns, slowly passes through Patiala. Following it are more such Delhi-bound vehicles, with the agitation flags flying on the front and the rear, and hundreds of young and the old shouting: “Nawa saal, Dilli naal.”
When the elderly people elsewhere are keeping themselves safe from the cold wave, farmers — both, the young and the old — continue to leave Punjab to camp at the Singhu border to welcome the New Year.
Undeterred by the bone-chilling conditions, hundreds of farmers are leaving for Delhi to show solidarity with protesters at the Delhi border. “We are 13 relatives going to back our farmer brothers and celebrate the New Year with them. Our tractor has everything from a makeshift bedroom to a kitchen”, says 21-year old Manpreet Singh of Baran village.
Niranjan Singh of Sanaur has packed a week’s clothing and woollens for his two boys and wife as he is ready to see the first sunrise of 2021 at the Delhi border. “When I was young I celebrated New Year at various places, but this will be special. It will be like a pilgrimage for the entire family,” says the septuagenarian.
“I went there first on November 30 for three days and had to come back to take care of my ailing mother. As soon as my 83-year-old mother got well, she ordered me to go to the border and return only when the agitation is over”, says Rajpura farmer Jasbir Singh. “If our mothers can be brave enough, there is no power that can stop us. I am going with four of my friends and we will do whatever work the farmers offer us. It will be our small contribution to this huge agitation,” he says.
The farmers insist they won’t settle for anything less than the withdrawal of the laws. “Amid thousands of protestors are a number of non-Sikh, non-Punjabi demonstrators from neighbouring Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Kerela and Maharashtra. The protest in itself has proved that we are all brothers divided by petty politics. Farmers from Bihar will soon join and this would be one of the biggest peaceful protests witnessed ever in the country. And we are ready”, says Amarjang Singh, who is willing to spend his entire next week at the Delhi border.
“After every 10 days, we return home and then again leave for Singhu. It is more of a festival for us where minds across the country discuss nothing but farming,” he says.