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Farmers’ Protest: Death of a farmer and war-like Delhi borders

Binny Yadav


Farmers protest at Shambhu Border: It was no less than a war zone. On Wednesday morning the highway on the border of India’s capital Delhi was divided by heavy barricading of cement blocks, overlapped with barbed wires and the road beneath dug with nails. One side stood battalions of police force all geared up to stop the protesting farmers’ march into the capital city, the other side was a massive strength of farmers from the nearing state Punjab ready to break the barriers to put forward their demands including legal guarantee for minimum support price for all crops.

Farmers young and old, all charged up, for a do or die, and geared up with cover masks, eyeglasses as a cover from rubber bullets and tear gas shells, even wearing  body suits stood close to the border. Tractors loaded with road digging equipment, Poclain machine and a temporary steel shield around the tractor drivers which appeared like a local tank, all reflecting the resolve of thousands of farmers who decided to march inside Delhi after many rounds of failed talks with the government over their demands.

11 Am was the time chosen to march. Farmers leaders and the elders giving instructions and addressing the farmers. Farmers gathered close to the border, stood in line separated by several rows waiting for the order to break and push their entry across the Delhi borders. 

“Jo bole so Nihal”, the loudspeaker blaring the sikh clarion call, and a chorus followed. “We are ready to face the worst”, said a farmer’s young son, “but will not go back on our demands”. “Come what may”, completed the father who was soon joined in chorus by others surrounding him. 

The worst was feared, but none from the farmers’ side appeared worried. Media was stopped far away and so were the women and children accompanying the farmers. The atmosphere was tense but none looked worried and the media apprehensions about the safety to an elderly farmers’ leader were assuring enough, “ we have no choice”, he appeared determined. “We tried our best to convince the government. This government is behaving like Nadir Shah who ruled India with his military might. Our children are leaving to foreign lands due to farm distress. Inflation has crossed 300 % in recent times and farm income only increased 30 %. What is the choice we are left with, to die this way or that way”.

Around noon, even as farmers stood in their positions just close to the point where their movement was restricted, some still engaged in discussion and leaders huddled up into discussions, amid a qualified restrain albeit the energies were high, as few young farmers tried to climb the cemented blocks there were sudden unprecedented showering of teargas lobes through the drones.

Within seconds the area was engulfed in white smoky cloud of tear gas and the only things seen around were the shadows of scrambling farmers for cover, with the sound of indiscriminate bullet shots in the background.  Within seconds the internet was abuzz with the videos showing how the farmers, young and the old, ran amok for safety with a very visible paradox as the backdrop of bangs of gunshot from the police’ side and the loudspeaker blaring the hymn from Sikh holy book ‘Sri Gurugranth Sahib” from the farmers’ camp praying for peace. All this while female counterparts and families of these farmers stood far off from the scene reciting slowly the hymn, clinging their children close to them.

Thankfully the peace was not broken, neither the spirit of the farmers downed, however the worse could not be averted. Around evening there was the news of the death of the young, 21 years old, Shubhkaran Singh, son of a farmer and the only brother among three sisters. According to the farmers’ leaders and eye witnesses Shubhkaran Singh was shot dead from the bullet which hit him on the back of his head. Later, the bullet injury was also confirmed by the doctor of the government hospital which declared the young boy dead ‘on arrival’. There were many untraceable as per the farmers leader’s account and many more severely injured. 

The protest was put to halt for two days as a mark of mourning and also to locate those missing and help the injured and gauge the situation.  Farmers camp reflected an apparent grief and worry,  but the restraint was still maintained with no let down in the spirits. Although the government late evening offered for another round of talks to mitigate the situation, but the farmers decided to take time to respond as the priority shifted to healing the wounds of the family who lost the young son and those injured while mulling over the next course, with not a single trace visible to step back on the demands. 

The situation of 21 February was building up since 13 of the month when farmers from Punjab had announced to march to Delhi but were forced to camp on the borders of the capital. Farmers had been camping on the Shambhu border since, while their leaders engaged in negotiation talks with the government representatives. There were reports of the death of one farmer apparently due to cardiac arrest around February 13. 

Farmers from Punjab have been protesting for a legal guarantee for Minimum support price of all crops among several other demands including pension for farmers. 


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