On 8 December, Suman Malik, a retired engineer, was at the Singhu border between Haryana and Delhi in support of the ongoing farmers’ protest. He is in his seventies with acute breathing issues. Since the imposition of the COVID-19 induced lockdown, he had kept himself confined at home. But after the farmers’ agitation began, he felt compelled to join the protest. Malik drove about thirty-five kilometres from southwest Delhi to the Singhu border. I asked Malik why he risked his health. “I was hurt by the inclination of the government as well as a large section of the media to label the protesting farmers as Khalistani and politically motivated,” he said. “The approach of the government, treating the farmers as if they are from some other land has caused me extreme pain. So I decided to join the gathering of the farmers and increase their number by one with my presence.”
Ramesh Mumukshu, a chronic patient of asthma from Uttarakhand, who is in his late fifties, was also at the Singhu border on 8 December. Mumukshu is the president of the Uttarakhand centre of the Gandhi Peace Foundation, an organisation that aims to create an environment for study and research on Gandhi’s teaching and practice. “I came here to be one amongst the agitating farmers,” he told me. “They have been living in a vulnerable condition especially in Uttarakhand where basic facilities are lacking and natural water resources are depleting rapidly. It’s not possible for a farmer to earn a livelihood and depend solely on agriculture in such a pathetic condition. Though I am an asthma patient from my childhood, yet I could not resist coming here and adding my voice with those who are fighting for future generations. They are agitating with full determination to win.”
Since 26 November, thousands of farmers, primarily from Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting against three recently enacted and controversial farm laws. The protest is part of a “Delhi Chalo” rally which called for farmers from across the country to reach the national capital on 26 and 27 November. As the farmers advanced from Punjab, through Haryana, and toward Delhi, police in Haryana and on the Delhi border barricaded various major roads to stop the farmers from reaching the capital. The police also attacked them with teargas shells and water cannons.