Laddoo, bhangra, blood donation mark farm law protest anniversary at Singhu border
Tractors bedecked with lights and posters rolled through the Singhu border protest site and loud Punjabi and Haryanvi celebratory music filled in the air on Friday as farmers marked one year of the protest against the three farm laws the government is set to withdraw formally.
Farmers flaunting colourful turbans, sunshades, long beards and twirling moustaches danced on the roofs of tractors, distributed sweets and hugged each other to mark the occasion that seemed like a festival.
Thousands of them flocked to the site over the last few days, buoyed by the government announcement to repeal the farms laws, to mark the completion of one year of a dogged protest that saw a long dusty patch of the Delhi-Karnal road between Delhi and Sonepat turned into a makeshift town with bamboo huts and all basic amenities one could think of.
Children and elderly, men and women, carried flags of their farmer unions and raised slogans of victory "Inquilab Zindabad" and "Majdoor Kisan Ekta Zindabad" amid passionate non-stop beating of drums.
The assembly area near the centrestage saw a large gathering like the early days of the protest.
The attendees included businessmen, professionals, lawyers, teachers, among others, belonging to families of farmers.
Sarender Singh, 50, from Pataila spent six months at the protest site managing crowd near the centrestage.
"It is a special day. It is like a festival being celebrated. It is after long that such a large number of people have gathered here. We also have Punjabi singer Babbu Mann among us," he said.
The special day also called for a special breakfast.
"Aaj jalebi, pakode, kheer and chole poori bane hai!!" Sarender said enthusiastically.
On Friday morning, farmers held special prayers to pay tributes to those who died during the course of the protest.
A notice board outside a tent served as a grim reminder of the sacrifices made during the protest. "732 people have died in the last one year," it read.
Lakhan Singh, 45, from Barnala in Punjab was protesting at the Delhi-Haryana border when he lost his father early this year.
"It would have better had he been here today. But I know his soul will be at peace now," he said.
Bhagwan Singh, 43, from Mavi village in Patiala lost his friend Najar Singh, 35, in the seventh month of the protest and burst into tears remembering him.
"My friend, the sole breadwinner of his family, left behind three small daughters and elderly parents. We miss him," he said.
Farmers remembered how they walked and cycled for days to reach the site of the protest a year ago and kept the fire burning despite the government "trying to scuttle the movement".
Kirpal Singh, 57, who reached the Singhu border in December last year, showed an injury mark on his right leg which he got from police baton.
"Batons, barricades, treats, nails ... nothing could stop us, we won!" he said.
Harpreet Kaur, 45, and her husband brought their specially-abled son to Singhu border in a wheelchair.
"He has been here twice. We could have left him with his grandparents, but it would not have been the right thing. He cannot convey his feelings in words, but I know he is happy," Kaur from Ludhiana said.
On loudspeakers, farmer leaders and activists could be heard asking people not to slacken.
Near the centrestage, a group of farmers celebrated the farm law protest anniversary by donating blood.
Sukhdev Bhullar, 42, from Anantpur Sahib said farmers have nourished the protest with their blood. "My blood is a tribute to all of them," he said.
"Celebrate the win but do not get carried away with it. We won't move an inch until all our demands are met," farmer leader Shiv Kumar Kakka said, reiterating the demand for legislation for MSP law and compensation to families of the 732 farmers.
Farmer leader Gurnam Singh Chadhuni said more than 700 people would have been alive here had Prime Minister Narendra Modi rescinded the farm laws earlier.