With a tearful speech delivered on the live television, Rakesh Tikait overturned the fate of the farmers protest at the Ghazipur site on Delhi and Uttar Pradesh’s border. On the evening of 28 January, Rakesh, the national spokesperson of the Bharatiya Kisan Union’s Arajnaitik faction in western Uttar Pradesh, refused to vacate the farmers’ protest site at Delhi’s Ghazipur border. A few hours earlier, there had been a huge build-up of police and security forces at the site. Rakesh and other farmer leaders had been served a notice by the local administration, which directed them to clear the site. The government earlier shut off water and electricity supply to the site.
Rakesh and the members of the union, which is based primarily in western Uttar Pradesh, had been camped at Delhi’s Ghazipur border for over seven weeks, in protest again the farm laws recently enacted by the ruling BJP. He was a part of the farmers contingent that held several rounds of talks with the government regarding the protesters demands. Rakesh had also been named, along with several other farmer leaders, in a first-information report filed by the Delhi Police related to violence that unfolded during the tractor rally on 26 January.
On the evening of 28 January, mainstream channels had arrived to document what they predicted was the end of the Ghazipur protest and to speak to Rakesh, the most prominent face there. But when the police came up to the stage, Rakesh refused arrest. A short while later, in an emotional outburst, he appealed for the protest to endure and said that “the Bharatiya Janata Party’s people are conspiring to kill the farmers.” With tears streaming down his face, Rakesh said that he would rather die than end his protest. Referring to the water shutdown, he resolved to not drink water unless it was brought from his village.