The modest bunch of protesters holding fort at UP Gate (Ghazipur border) had nothing special planned on Friday. Dull as the November sky, it was to be another eventless day for the vanguard with their heels and tents dug in as the battle of attrition with the Centre moved towards an important landmark – a week from now, the protest against the three new farm laws on Delhi’s borders will turn a year old.
Then, the mobile phones started ringing. One of the first to get the morning’s biggest “breaking news” was Bijender Singh, a farmer from UP’s Ghazipur district who was in his tent, yet to start his day. At the other end, his son was screeching. “Krishi kanoon wapas le rahe hain (the farm laws are being repealed). Modi ne announce kiya (Modi has announced),” he told a stunned Singh.
“I couldn’t believe my ears,” Singh told TOI. “I cross-checked and when I was convinced that what my son was saying was true, I rushed out to inform others.” Soon after, the celebrations began. The sizzle ofjalebis in the langar, a round of crackers, a group dance, bellows of triumph and excited phone calls to family followed. Some drove along the protest site loudspeakers blazing till the border where they were stopped and turned back by Delhi Police. “This too will go soon,” yelled a protester, pointing at the barricades.
Through the nippy air and the acrid overhang of smog, the warm breeze of victory that swept into UP Gate on Friday when the PM announced that the farm laws would be repealed was lapped up by just 150-odd tired but beaming faces.
With none of the farmer leaders around, the moment belonged to the footsoldiers. By afternoon, many of them were on national media, their faces lighting up newscasts on mobile screens as journalists outnumbered protesters at UP Gate. “Jeet” was the word on everyone’s lips, but this was a bittersweet win, achieved through sacrifice and months of struggle through the turn of seasons, moods, opinions and politics Balwant Singh, a farmer from Shahjahanpur, said, “We will stay put at UP Gate till the time laws are repealed by Parliament because we can’t trust it will happen till then.”
“A lot has gone into making this year-long protest a success. I remember the day Kashmir Singh from Bilaspur committed suicide at UP Gate (Jan 2). It shook me and others, but we remained determined and succeeded at last,” said Manjeet Singh Atwal, a farmer from Uttarakhand. Others said a law on MSP and compensation forfamilies of farmers who died during the agitation remained unfulfilled demands that the Centre needed to respond to.
Speaking to TOI over the phone, BKU spokesperson Dharmendra Malik said, “The battle is half won. Apart from the repeal of the farm laws, we also want a guarantee on MSP. The agitation has seen so many farmers losing their lives at the protest sites in the past year and we demand that their families get compensation.”
At the protest site, though, several farmers were relieved they could go back to their families, and not empty handed.
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