Protesting farmers, who have been holding fort at the Singhu border for over 20 days, are keeping monotony and boredom at bay by adding new books to their reading list — day after day.
For many, it is a newfound love.
Thirty-two-year-old Harbans Singh, who has been camping for the past one week, said he can’t recall the last time he had picked up a book for reading.
His reasons for doing it now: “to keep tempers down” and “to get inspired by the greats”.
“There are many like me who have started reading books during the protest only. Currently, I am reading Punjab Tera ki Banu by novelist Jaswant Singh Kanwal. I look forward to finishing this one and reading another soon,” said Singh, who hails from Barnala district in Punjab and has come with his friends to protest.
“Someone suggested a book on Fidel Castro. Kehnde hai bahut bada krantikari si woh (They say he was a great revolutionary),” he said.
Several books are seen at the protest site, including biographies of revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh, Che Guevara and Vladimir Lenin in English, Hindi and Punjabi as well.
There are also books on farmers’ distress, Punjab’s rich history and on the teachings of Sikh Gurus who stood for national integration, peace, brotherhood and communal harmony.
Cashing on these new tribe of readers, some small-time book stalls have also sprung up at the protest site.
Gargi, a Delhi-based publication house, is happily surprised to find some business for its books in a venue like this.
“They all are curious and have too many questions in their mind. Some of these books try to give them answers, others provide food for thought for more questions,” said Kamal Joshi, a volunteer working at Gargi Publications.
“The fact they are at throwaway prices, and available in Hindi and Punjabi languages as well are also some of the reasons why protesters are keen on buying these books,” he added.
Their books include a Hindi quarterly magazine Kisaan, Hindi translation of Russian writer Maxim Gorky’s novel The Mother — which is a story about revolutionary factory workers — and a 24-page booklet on the three contentious farm laws costing only Rs 5.
Gurmeet Sandhu, 55, a farmer from Karnal district of Haryana, said he has read the booklet on farm laws and plans to send “50 copies” of the booklet to his village and spread the word.
“This book explains the laws in detail. I am now 100 per cent sure that these laws are not at all in favour of farmers. I want more people to read it and will distribute it to more and more people,” said Sandhu, who has been part of the protest since November 28.
A makeshift library at the border, run by PhD students from Punjab, welcomes visitors with a telling banner reading: “Udhta Nahi, Padhta Punjab”.
With over 900 books already issued from their total stock of 1,300, the organisers are overwhelmed by the response and plan to replenish the stocks soon.
“Our purpose to have this library here is to educate farmers about the issues. They can come here, get the book and form an opinion about what is right and what is wrong themselves. This way they would protest peacefully and not fall for any wrong information,” said Kiran Preet Singh from Jangi Library.
Books finding major tractions in the library are: Pehla Adhyapak, the Hindi translation of Russian author Chingiz Aitmatov’s story about a teacher who took on the responsibility to educate the children from poor families in his community, Sikh Rajneeti and Shaheed Jaswant Singh Khalra: Soch, Sangharsh te Shahadat by author Ajmer Singh.
Just adjacent to the library is an ongoing poster exhibition by student organisation Bhagat Singh Chatra Ekta Manch. The exhibition, which also provides stationery required to make posters, is becoming another go-to place for protesting farmers to try their hand at poster-making.