Spaces and Times

How cultural initiatives nurture collective activity at the farmers’ protests

Produced by the movement and available for free at the Shahid Bhagat Singh Library at Tikri, Trolley Times has become the chronicler of the farmers’ protests. Shahid Tantray for the Caravan
31 January, 2021

It was early morning in Tikri, but the bustling roads were full of life. The aroma of brewing tea rose up in makeshift kitchens. Farmers from Punjab and Haryana, who were braving the January cold to protest the government’s neoliberal agricultural reforms at Delhi’s borders, slowly made their way out of their trolleys. Like most of us, they began their day reading the newspaper over a cup of tea, but their publication of choice was Trolley Times, available at the Shaheed Bhagat Singh Library. Located on the pavement, between two trolleys parked at Pillar Number 783, the makeshift library houses hundreds of books in Hindi, Punjabi and English, donated by the movement’s allies.

“Every morning, a few farmers come asking for the day’s Trolley Times, and we have to remind them that it only comes out once every five days,” Ajaypal Natt, one of the newspaper’s founders, told me. The first edition was published on 18 December 2020. Produced by the movement and available for free at the library, Trolley Times has become the chronicler of the farmers’ protests.

Libraries are an important feature of recent protest sites, as seen during the movement against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. At Shaheen Bagh and elsewhere, the libraries turned into lively cultural centres where new solidarities are formed and the exchange of ideas facilitated.

Trolley Times was born out of discussions between Surmeet Maavi, who wrote the script for the film Punjab 1984, and Gurdeep Singh Dhaliwal, a writer and photographer. “We started the newspaper with one goal: to truthfully narrate the reality of the farmers’ protest—its intrigues and undercurrents—and capture feelings and thoughts,” Natt, a Mansa-based physiotherapist who has been protesting at Tikri since late November, said. “As we live and spend all our time on the ground, we wanted to share stories and ideas that we came across.” Dhaliwal, who oversees the paper’s design and layout, told me that he had started an online magazine when he was in school. “I like the idea of every place having its own publication that tells people’s stories,” he said. “That is what Trolley Times is about.”