Express News Service
NEW DELHI: An emotional appeal by Rakesh Tikait, national spokesperson of Bhartiya Kisan Union, after a tense stand-off between the farmers and Uttar Pradesh Police seems to have injected fresh energy to the farmers’ protest at Ghazipur. The midnight drama featuring the administration and farmer leaders at Ghazipur leading to Tikait breaking down may also have struck an emotional chord with farmers across Uttar Pradesh. Groups of farmers, small business owners, social and political activists started arriving at the protest site on Friday after a video of a crying Tikait went viral.
In it, Tikait says he will not budge and continue the agitation. The protest, which was losing steam and numbers after the Republic Day unrest, appeared to have sprung back to life. Encampments spread to about six kilometres on Delhi-Meerut Expressway on Friday. Many said it was now a ‘war’ between UP farmers and the BJP governments at the Centre and in the state.
Shouting slogans of ‘kisan ekta jindabad’, farmers turned up in numbers to show solidarity with Tikait. They also raised slogans in remembrance of his late father and farmer leader Mahendra Singh Tikait, calling him ‘Baba Tikait’.“Last night I asked people to give me water from their home, as the administration had cut off water supply (at the protest site). Today, I see huge support for our cause, people bringing water and helping out with arrangements.
This kisan ekta (farmers’ unity), which we need now. This protest will continue and the government should not try to intimidate us. If they want to end the protest by force, then be it. We are not going back until our demands are met. More are on their way and will reach soon. Please maintain calm and continue supporting each other,” Tikait told the crowd.
A steady stream of tractors and cars were reaching the site, announcements were made not to climb on to the main stage because the structure might collapse under their weight. “I could not sleep last night after seeing Rakesh Tikait crying. This is not done. The government is stooping too low. They have forgotten the farmers and that what they eat is what we grow. Leave alone respect, they are intimidating us. I am here to send a message that Tikait is not alone” said Mahesh Kumar Thakur from Moradabad.
Police personnel from Delhi and Uttar Pradesh scaled up patrolling around the protest site. Service roads below the Expressway were blocked by DTC busses, so that those arriving in tractors stay in the designated protest area. Traffic between Delhi and Ghaziabad was diverted through many routes, causing inconvenience to people working in capital.
Kulwant Singh of Laxmi Nagar, part of one of the management committees, seemed worried about the demand for food after the rise in the number of protestors. He has asked his family members to join in cooking ‘langar’ for them. “We will stay till demands are met. They can forcefully remove us, but we are not going without getting our voice heard,” he said.