On 2 December, we met Devinder Singh, a farmer from Punjab, at a sit in protest by farmers at Kundli, on the Delhi-Haryana border. Lakhs of farmers were supposed to reach the capital on on 26 November and 27 November as a part of “Delhi Chalo,” a protest rally against three new farm laws. But they were stopped, after security forces responded to the march by barricading Delhi’s borders, shelling teargas and firing water cannons. It was after the crackdown that Devinder joined the protest, arriving at Kundli on 30 November. “I saw all the messages and images of people being together and fighting for their rights. I could not sit at home,” he said. “Everyone from Punjab wants to be here. It is one of the most important moments in our history. My 13-year-old son also wants to be here.”
Between 9.30 am and 7 pm that day, we interacted with the protesters at Kundli, most of whom were from Punjab and Haryana. The protesters welcomed all forms of solidarity and even the media to the sit in, except what they termed as “Godi media”—media which acts as a lapdog of the central government instead of doing its job. Devinder said shops and local businesses at Kundi also cooperated with the protesters and supported them. “They have all united and helped us distribute food and give shelter to people,” he said. “We have not seen any division over here.”
Near the gathering of protesters, tractors and trucks lined up on a nearly four-kilometre-long stretch. Police barricades on one end were serving as an entry point of sorts to the gathering. A few hundred meters from the barricades, we saw a tent for langar—long mats in four different rows were placed underneath it, over a stretch of about thirty meters. Meals were served through the day, and the food never seemed to reduce in capacity.
“No one is going to go hungry or thirsty from here,” Gurcharan Deep Saini, one of the organisers of the langar that day, told us. Most of the coordination for the protest and the langars at the site was done through social media, specifically WhatsApp. “If anyone needs any kind of food or a mattress or anything, they just have to send one message, and it will reach them,” Saini said. “With the network of people we have now, we can talk to each other and share our messages and concerns very easily.”
Inderjit Singh, a farmer from Ludhiana, and a member of the Bhartiya Kisan Union, also reiterated this point. He showed us his WhatsApp chats, and how only administrators could post in his union’s group. “We need to know what is being said and don’t want people to post good morning messages and fake news,” Inderjit told us. “We want to keep it focused on the protest. If anyone wants to say anything, they can message us,” he added.