As media cacophony reached a delirous state, peddling the government narrative of violence and anarchy, an embedded journalist of Kargil fame even declared (on her public Faccebook page) that she was “furious and annoyed” – though she had till a few minutes ago “stood with the rights of the farmers to be heard”. She claimed that she had even “admired their protest for its generosity and dignity”. She recounted that she had spent the morning amidst a “Sea of Tirangas at #Singhu” where she had “met farmers who wore the Tricolor like a badge of joy.”
And then? “What has happened today [at Red Fort] is absolutely unacceptable”. What she saw in the morning has been seen by thousands, if not millions across the world, through the two months that the farmers have been camping at the borders of Delhi, stoically bearing the freezing cold weather and losing over 150 of their fellow farmers. So did it occur to the morally revolted journalist to ask, “what actually happened?” “How did this happen?” This incident that went contrary to how the movement had been until then – did not the journalist (any journalist) need to probe it? She did not even ask the simplest questions. So eager was she to put her support to the farmers’ agitation in the past, and jump back to her comfort zone that there was no question of doing any further investigation. It was as if the entire history of the past two months and the legitmacy of the farmers’ demands were demolished at one stroke!
So let us hear the farmers’ leaders themselves and what they have to say about how things developed, and how on that very day by 6.30 pm, the SKM had started appealing to the participants to halt the tractor march. But the real story that should have been the concern of any serious, conscientious journalist, lies behind how the same Delhi Police that was not willing to allow a tractor march on Outer Ring Road, gave virtually free passage to some selected sections. How, with Republic Day’s high security, did masses of people reach Red Fort and ITO? Let us listen to the farmers’ leaders themselves in the second video below.
But before that, let us hear Balbir Singh Rajewal here, where he explains the whole way in which things started developing, since 13 December, when a group by the name of Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (KSMC) was brought in, with what looks, in retrospect, like a definite plan.
My independent conversations with people also confirm that the main group involved in this jugalbandi with the regime, the KMSC, had been allowed to put up its camps on the Delhi side of the border about two weeks ago, when all the others were simply not allowed to enter. This means that effectively, for that group, there were no barricades as Balbir Singh Rajewal underlines.
A whole series of facts have emerged by now, as to what actually happened – and most of it is because the Punjabi media or people participating in the rally or supporting it, have tried to pierce the smokescreen. (Incidentlly, the movement has developed its own media and ‘IT Cell’, which makes things easier). Embedded below are just two videos of the long march from Tikri and Singhu borders. Anyone can see how peacefully, and in an orderly fashion, the tractor parade is moving, where route of the march agreed to by the SKM was followed. We can produce any number of such videos from other parts of the city.
Video of a segment of the rally from Tikri border, courtesy Samim Asgor Ali (above)
Video of the tractor parade from Singhu border, courtesy Kisan Ekta Morcha (above)
As Gurnam Singh Chadhuni says in the joint press conference video above, when the talks wih the government finally broke down on the 22nd of January, Minister Tomar said, “okay you do your preparations for the 26th and we will do ours.” As it turns out, the preparations that he talked about were not about security arrangements but about something else. Chadhuni also condemns the actions of the singer-actor Deep Sidhu, who accepted that it was he who hoisted the Nishan Saheb flag at Red Fort, and was a key player in the way things panned out on the 26th of January. Meanwhile, a video surfaced (edited version minus expletives hurled at Sidhu by farmers here) where Sidhu went live on Facebook (while inside a vehicle), immediately after the hoisting of the flag, and was found and chased by angry farmers who followed him shouting, ‘naas kar ditta (you have destroyed everything)’, ‘phad saalenu‘ (catch the rogue) among many other unmentionable expletives. That itself indicates that even among those who went with the flow and reached Red Fort, there were many who only realized much later as to what had happened.
Now, with regard to the actual events on the 26th, some points need to be kept in mind.
- Deep Sidhu, the singer-actor, has had close connections with another group that happens to be connected to gangster-turned-activist Lakha Sidhana or Lakhbir Sidhana, who commands some support among a section of youth in Punjab and who has also ‘joined’ the struggle in Punjab. Though he has denied any role in the incidents at Red Fort and has expressed disapproval, there are widespread allegations that on the eve of the Tractor Parade, he and Sidhu addressed farmers at Singhu border to the effect that they would violate the decision of the SKM and march on Outer Ring Road.
- When a section of the farmers under their leadership broke the barricades, they seem to already have had a ready contingent on the Delhi side – that of the KMSC – to join in. The distance between Singhu border and Mukarba Chowk is some 17 kms and could not have taken less than an hour and a half to cover on foot. There does not seem to be any evidence yet that at any point during this time they were stopped. What is worse, is that when the marchers turned towards Red Fort, they seem to have got a free passage as Rajewal says in the first video above. So, while Delhi Police denied the permission to conduct the march along Outer Ring Road to the official march, it opened up a free passage for a handpicked section right up to Red Fort.
- Interviews of Rakesh Tikait and many other farmers from Baghpat and other other parts of Western UP (conducted by Rozana Spokesman) reveal that, on the Ghazipur side, the police had placed barricades on the main agreed upon route that forced the tractors to head towards Delhi. This has been corroborated by some independent accounts (by some university teachers, for instance) on social media as well. One of them even said that while they were given to understand that they have to turn left at Akshardham Temple on NH 24, the police had actually barricaded that part, directing them actually towards ITO and Red Fort. Some other accounts, of course, contradict this version and hold the farmers guilty of breaking the barricades and moving towards ITO and Red Fort on their own. It seems quite likely that by this time the social media updates of the farmers already heading towards Red Fort from Singhu border had confused a whole lot of them in other parts as well.
- There were certainly reports that farmers in Najafgarh found some part of their official route barricaded, thus misdirecting them into wrong routes.
Some of the facts as to what happened will probably emerge in due course but this much is clear: For a movement that has shown exemplary restraint, discipline and commitment to peaceful forms of agitation, the violence was uncharacteristic. Indeed, even in the Red Fort episode, the farmers remained peaceful.
Is the Movement Fizzling Out?
Is it true, as the lapdog media has been claiming, that the movement is fizzling out? Here too, let us first get some things clear:
- For the first two days after Republic Day, that is, January 27th and 28th, things seemed to move exactly along the Modi-Shah plan, repeating the same pattern that had been adopted in suppressing the equally exemplary anti-CAA movement. First create violent incidents, and then, in a pincer movement the police and the propaganda machinery of the lapdog media moves into action. The BJP’s IT Cell played its expected role though this time the tweets multiplied verbatim endlessly, by supposed ‘journalists’, who even forgot to change the gender of the subject of sentences framed for them about the ‘excesses’ of the Kisan andolan.
- In the course of this pincer movement, the police action moved to swiftly frame cases of sedition etc against the farmer leaders, even those who did not have even remote connections with the events of the day. (The Yogi Adityanath government in UP went a step ahead in trying to dismantle the Ghazipur protest – to which I will return in a minute) . The lapdogs in the media started on a two-pronged campaign to (i) play up the ‘leaving’ of a few farmers’ groups who had either already been expelled from the Coordination Committee or were not part of it in the first place. (ii) point to tractors returning back to their home states to ‘show’ that the movement was fizzling out. The fact of the matter, as Joginder Singh Ugrahan was at pains to point out, was that these tactors had come only for the 26th rally – they hadn’t come to be stationed here.
- All this of course, seems to have had an impact among TV-consuming urban middle-classes and squeamish liberals. The BJP and the regime seem to have started believing in their own invincibility and immediately the next phase of the Mo-Sha plan was put into operation. Groups of RSS thugs and their often gullible supporters were let loose to hold demonstrations and raise slogans like ‘Dilli police lath bajao, ham tumhare sath hain‘, ‘desh ke gaddaron ko goli maro saalon ko‘ etc That was to set the stage for the next phase of repression by the regime. I live in the same housing society where Yogendra Yadav lives and had to deal with one such demonstration that was held outside our premises demanding that we ‘hand over’ ‘deshdrohi Yogendra Yadav’ to them. I learnt that similar demonstrations had been held in some other parts of Delhi as well yesterday – one of them was Najafgarh of which there are videos circulating.
- As part of this scheme – and combined with Yogi Adityanath’s UP government, a local BJP MLA landed with a few hundred of his supporter at Ghazipur to force the protest to wind up. This had been preceded by the UP Police cutting off electricity and water supply and removing toilets from the site, with an attempt by the police at the dead of night to attack the protestors.
This was the point at which the script of the anti-CAA movement operations ceased to work. This was the point at which the regime, the BJP and the RSS seriously miscalculated. All of yesterday, the 28th of January, heavy police deployment along with barricading of the all roads around the border indicated what the plans of the government were. And sure enough it happened. First, the BJP MLA appeared with his goons to dismantle the protesters but realized he hadn’t bargained for what he saw. The protesters not only refused to budge but threatened to keep the BJP goons hostage, according to some reports. But then came the police to arrest Rakesh Tikait and other leaders and while the police was on the dais, Tikait announced that they would not surrender or court arrest but dared them to shoot him: chalao goli! The police went back empty handed for that moment but perhaps hoping to return with a better plan.
It was then that talking to some of the non-mainstream media and social media people, Tikait broke down and started sobbing – saying that he cannot desert his fellow farmers – ‘I voted for the BJP, against the advice of my wife, but they backstabbed us’.
The minute the videos of Tikait sobbing before the media reached his village and Western UP in general, thousands of people started gathering and decided to move to join him at Ghazipur right then. At night. And not just Western UP. In Haryana too there were late night meetings and thousands of people left for Delhi to join the Ghazipur protest. As someone said, brake dabana tha, accelerator daba diya!
(It seems that the BJP has still not reaized that fact and has now sent its goons to the Singhu border with Delhi Police. Knowing that the farmers are committed to non-violence, and so they are safe despite being completely outnumbered, they pelted stones at farmers, injuring many. How this situation develops remains to be seen).
Within hours the scene had changed and as one friend put it in the unforgettable lines of the Mughal-e-Azam song:
jab raat hai aisee matwali / phir subah ka alam kya hoga!
And now, we look with hope to the future. The movement will bounce back, has bounced back, with immense hope. Will it also propel others – the working class, the middle classes and the political class to see what immense possibilities are taking shape here? Will some some new political formation that unites us all, emerge?
I end then with Gurnam Singh Chadhuni’s declaration addressed to the regime last night: Don’t you dare make the mistake of thinking that the Ghazipur people are alone. The entire country, all of us, farmers in different parts of the country, stand with them.