Amid the din of sloganeering and speeches from the rostrum, with speaker after speaker targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi for allegedly trying to corporatise agriculture, anxiety is palpable among the protesting farmers as they look for a political alternative to safeguard their interests.
Do we require “our own” political outfit to stop the exploitation of farmers? If the minimum support price on wheat and rice goes, will the prices of irrigated farmland fall further? Do our farmer leaders have political vision? Such thought-provoking queries trouble the young and the elderly alike as the protesters withdraw to their base camps after the day’s hectic schedule. The questions also reflect their disenchantment with the mainstream political parties — be it the BJP, Shiromani Akali Dal, Congress or the Aam Aadmi Party.
With no politician welcome on the “protest stage”, farmer union leaders, including Joginder Singh Ugrahan, Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan, Jagmohan Singh Dakaunda and Balbir Singh Rajewal, have turned icons at the ‘kisan andolan’here. They have been grabbing space on the social media as well as the digital, print and visual media platforms.
As the youth share their concerns with their “new leaders” over the three central farm laws, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Rajewal) chief Balbir Singh Rajewal tells them it could be a long haul.
The anger and anguish against the political system is writ large on the faces of the protesters. Gurpreet, representing a group of progressive farmers from Ghanaur in Patiala, takes on the powers-that-be over their “double standards”.
“We are aware the underground water table is declining sharply due to traditional crops and there is overuse of pesticides, but the successive governments lacked in efforts to wean the farmers away from wheat and paddy. The attempts to promote diversification were half-hearted!” he maintains.
“All of them (politicians) stand exposed. The political outfits are concerned only about their own survival amid the changed dynamics,” says Parminder Singh of Chakdana village in Nawanshahr.
Otherwise owing allegiance to different political parties, the youngsters at the protest site here no more feel proud of being identified as “Congressi” or “Akali”. “We are farmers and are united here by a common cause,” says Raju from Aulakh village in Gurdaspur.