Tents, langar, shifts: Behind stir, a well-oiled, disciplined machine

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    Camping tents, langar, shifts: Behind stir, a well-oiled, disciplined device

    Written by Raakhi Jagga
    | Shambhu (patiala) |

    November 22, 2020 9: 36: 37 am





    Tents, langar, shifts: Behind stir, a well-oiled, disciplined machine A langar in development at the parking area of Shambhu Train station. (Express picture by Gurmeet Singh)

    IT’S 4 AM, the air is chilly, and the town of Shambhu is fast asleep. But the moonlit parking lot at the railway station is swarming with activity. The opposing farmers camping there are getting ready for a change of shift. Soon, 29 of them troop out.

    Farmers from 10 unions have actually been camping in and around this train station for over 50 days now. Hazura Singh (57), block president of BKU (Rajewal) and primary organiser of this morcha, states how they initially came down on the tracks near the over bridge on October 1.

    Protesting against the three main farm laws, farmers throughout Punjab obstructed rail tracks for practically 21 days. “There was a lot of anger and the crowd utilized to swell to over 5,000 throughout the day here,” states Hazura. It began ebbing from October 21, when the 30 farmers’ unions of the state chose to clear the tracks for goods trains. The protesters then relocated to the platforms. Goods trains ran for 3 days before the Railways stopped them on October 24 on the plea that their staff feared for their security.

    Faced with an unprecedented rail blockade, the state government advised the unions to clear the platforms. “On November 5, we transferred to the parking area, now we do not ever get in the platform, not even to consume water. However the railways still accuse us of obstructing trains,” says Nathu Lal, previous sarpanch of Gharma village.

    Inside the dusty railway station on the Punjab-Haryana border that used to hum with 280- odd freight and passenger trains all through the day and night, an only engine roars past. A railways employee, who asked for privacy, says they are busy with deep screening of the tracks by the engineering wing. “We have doubled the day-to-day screening time from 2 to 4-5 hours. We have currently finished deep screening of the tracks from Rajpura to Shambhu,” he stated, adding that the Delhi-Ludhiana-Jammu train line passes through this station.

    Outside, over a breakfast of aloo paratha and tea, a farmer asks, “If these engines can run round the clock, why can’t the products trains?”

    To the Union train ministry’s stand that they will run both goods and guest trains simultaneously, Ranjit Singh, a farmer, states: “Kisan di mooch da sawaal hai (It’s a question of a farmer’s pride). Our leaders have already said that if they run items trains, we will enable passenger trains the really next day if not on the really exact same day.”

    With the mercury dipping, the farmers have actually turned the open air parking area into a tented affair, total with soft bedding on the flooring strewn with Punjabi newspapers.

    A motley group of train and Punjab police workers keep a close watch on them. 2 jawans from the Railway Protection Force (RPF) and three from Government Train authorities (GRP) guy the station round the clock. ASI Jarnail Singh from GRP says, “This dharna has actually been peaceful considering that the start however we have to remain alert.” Suresh Kumar, head constable of RPF, concurs, “They have actually not harmed any home of the railway station.”

    Pointing to the police bandobast, a farmer, says, “They take our images at least thrice a day, and if any leader comes to address us, they record his speech.”

    The cops shrug. “It is the procedure, we need to send this information to the head workplace every day.”

    Come lunch time, a few of the train staff sit down for the langar along with the 70- odd farmers and children from the railways quarters close by. Today it is rumali roti with soya nuggets and potatoes. Diwali, the kids say, saw a big spread with sweets galore.

    Gurmail Singh from Bhunder Kalan village, who is here for the last 4 days, says morchas all over the state are run like a well-oiled equipment. “There is a weekly roster for the farmers as well as all the 3 meals and tea. Today, for circumstances, the breakfast originated from the village of Hazura Singh.”

    Surjan Singh from Akri village near Patiala says this morcha is being run by 10 farmer organisations– BKU( Rajewal), BKU( Sidhupur), BKU( Dakaunda), Krantikari Kisan Union (Punjab ), Krantikari Kisan Union (Phool), Rashtriya Kisan Manch, All India Kisan Federation, All India Kisan Sabha, Indian Farmer Association and Jamhoori Kisan Sabha.

    2 members from each organisation are part of the coordination and organisation committees, which hold a meeting every morning and night.

    The farmers at the morcha have to mark their participation every early morning and evening. Each of the 10 unions sends out 5 farmers each for the night shift, says Surjan.

    Breakfast is the leanest time of the day as numerous farmers go back to run everyday tasks at house. The numbers swell up around twelve noon, before petering down to around 46 after dinner at 7 pm.

    The falling mercury does not trouble these farmers. Balwinder Singh, 72, says, “We are used to working in the fields early in the early morning, the cold does not scare us.”

    As some farmers doze off, the conversation veers off to the proposed ‘Delhi Chalo’ march on November 26.

    ” If talks fail, we will march to Delhi. We have over 2 lakh tractors, we will gherao Delhi from all sides if they don’t let us go into,” bristles the wizened old Jagtar Singh, 72, from Alamdi town of Patiala.

    The ‘Dilli sarkar’, he states, need to check out history: “We have never ever shied away from a struggle, this has to do with our land … We never ever required these acts, why is the PM requiring them on us.”

    Ruldu Singh, another elderly farmer, who has actually been glued to news on his pocket radio, says the central federal government should act like a kindhearted big brother: “Punjab has close to 2 lakh trucks that are offseting the trains. Centre must decide whether they require Punjab … What are they going to get after stopping trains?”

    It is one question that resonates across the 25 morcha websites near numerous railway stations across the state.

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