“This is a mass movement”: Haryana’s farmers boost protest, call Punjab farmers “big brothers”

Thousands of farmers protest at the Delhi-Haryana border in Singhu against the recently enacted farm laws. Farmers from Haryana have joined their Punjab counterparts at the protest sit-ins. Rohit Lohia
01 December, 2020

On the afternoon of 30 November, a group of farmers from Haryana sat close to three layers of barricades at Tikri, on the Delhi-Haryana border, that included huge cement blocks and wire mesh. They were angry over recent comments by the Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar on the ongoing farmers’ protest. Khattar had claimed that his government had “inputs” on the presence of Khalistani separatists in the farmers’ agitation. “The Khattar government is dubbing the farmers here as Khalistanis from Punjab, but you see we are from Haryana, look at our Aadhar cards, the government shouldn’t try to divide us, all farmers present here are one,” Jatinder Singh Dhankar, a farmer from Raiya village in Haryana’s Jhajjar district, told us.

The farmers from Haryana had joined a “Delhi Chalo” protest rally primarily led by around thirty farmer organisations in Punjab. The organisations called for farmers from across the country to reach the national capital on 26 and 27 November for an indefinite protest against three controversial and recently enacted farm laws. Over three hundred farmers’ organisations from states such as Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana are supporting the rally. Police in Haryana and on the Delhi border barricaded various major roads to stop the farmers from reaching the capital. Thousands of farmers stormed these barricades, while the police attacked them with teargas shells and water cannons. The farmers also staged sit-in protests at various points on the Haryana-Delhi border. It was at the Tikri border that the Delhi police halted thousands of farmers from Punjab and Haryana on 27 November.   

During our reporting, we witnessed a display of solidarity from Haryana farmers with their brethren from Punjab. The farmers from Raiya and surrounding villages in Haryana had thronged this place in 30 tractor-trolleys, bringing in essentials like blankets and milk. Dhankar told us that the Haryana farmers also ferried some of the “sisters and mothers” from Punjab who had reached the Haryana-Delhi border to nearby houses in Haryana for bathing and washing clothes. He said it was the duty of the Haryana farmers to take care of their “brothers from Punjab” who also brought their own months-long worth of ration, travelling from faraway villages.

Primarily, three farmer groups from Haryana participated in the protest—the Akhil Bhartiya Kisan Sabha led by Inderjit Singh, the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Chaduni) led by Gurnam Singh Chaduni, and the Kisan Sangharsh Samiti led by Mandeep Nathwan. In addition, groups of independent farmers not operating with any organisation also travelled to join the sit-ins at the Tikri and Singhu Haryana-Delhi borders.

Inderjit told me that on 29 November, the villagers of Titoli and other adjoining villages in Haryana’s Rohtak district rushed around twenty-five thousand litres of milk to the Tikri border where the farmer contingents from all over Punjab had reached. He also led a contingent of 300 tractor trolleys and matadors from within Haryana, reaching the Tikri border on 28 November.

“This is a mass movement,” Inderjit said. “We sustained the farmers’ protests and agitations for six months in Haryana. We burnt the copies of the farm ordinances in June.” Nathwan’s organisation, the Haryana-based Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, also brought around ten thousand farmers to the agitation.

Meanwhile Chaduni is a farmers leader who has a strong following in Haryana’s Ambala, Kurukshetra, Karnal, and Yamunanagar regions. His organisation, the BKU (Chaduni),  brought in large contingents of farmers from these areas. They were part of a long line of the protesting farmers that stretched from Singhu upto Murthal on the Ambala-Delhi highway for over twenty kilometres. 

On 25 November, around 10,000 BKU members had converged near Ambala to welcome and join the incoming caravan from Punjab. That day, while addressing a crowd of farmers at Samana Bahu village near the Ambala-Delhi highway, Chaduni said, “Punjab walo ko koi zaroorat nahi hai zor lagane ki, Haryana ke barricade hum todenge aur Punjab ke liye rasta saaf karenge”—The people from Punjab don’t need to use force, we will break the barricades in Haryana and clear the way for Punjab. Following this statement, BKU youth members broke police barricades at various locations in Haryana on the Ambala-Delhi highway.

Navdeep Singh was a part of a group of farmers from around three hundred villages in Haryana’s Ambala belt who joined the protest. An image of his went viral on social media—on 26 November, he jumped on a police truck which had a mounted water cannon. He turned off the nozzles streaming water, helping the groups of farmers advance towards Delhi.

“It is our duty as the youth to protect the advancing farmers who also included our elders in large numbers,” Navdeep told us, a day after the incident. He added that as a fallout of his act, the police had booked him under Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code, which relates to attempt to murder, and other sections related to violence and rioting.

For three days, from 25 to 27 November, Jasmeet Singh, a farmer from Badaula village in Ambala district took out his tractor, called the New Holland 5500, to break the police barricades on the Ambala-Delhi highway. He tied the huge concrete blocks set up by the police to his tractor with ropes and pulled them to the roadside.

“It was the youth from Haryana who were of great help in removing the concrete blocks from the highway,” Dharminder Singh, a farmer from Punjab, leading a contingent from the state’s Hoshiarpur district, told us. “Otherwise we would not have been able to reach Singhu.”