COVID REGULATIONS went for a toss in Punjab on Saturday, as thousands of farmers marched towards Chandigarh to mark seven months of farmers’ protest against three contentious agri laws passed by the Parliament last year and to hand over a memorandum to the President of India, via the state Governor.
The marching farmers, in solidarity with protesters who are camped at Delhi’s borders for the last seven months, also raised slogans of ‘Save agriculture, Save democracy’, as they made their way to Chandigarh.
Sources said a majority of protesters from all the 32 farmer organisations, BKU Ugrahan and Kisan Mazdoor Sangrash Committee (KMSC), marched toward Chandigarh, with several district-level protests also being held outside the offices of all Deputy Commissioner (DC)s in all 22 districts of the state.
Apart from this, protests and dharnas were also held in all the 108 pakka dharna sites of Punjab. The main highlight of Saturday’s protests, farmer union leaders said, was to maintain discipline in dissent, and hence the number of participating youngsters was limited.
“We never wanted things to go out of hands in excitement. After January 26, we have been very cautious about maintaining discipline while protesting. Every farmer union leader had been assigned certain duties. It was a mix of our young, middle-aged, and elderly farmers who marched towards Chandigarh on Saturday morning,” said Jagmohan Singh Patiala, general secretary of BKU, Dakaunda, while talking to The Indian Express.
“We organised protest marches in all the districts and a memorandum was handed over in Chandigarh. In every district, farmers marched towards their DC office where dharnas were staged for an hour. The farmers took one hour to march to the DC offices and for another hour they staged a dharna. Later langar was served before the agitation culminated from outside the DC offices,” said Narain Dutt from Inqlabi Manch, one of the farmer outfits who participated in Saturday’s march.
In Barnala, farmers marched towards their DC office on motorcycles, even as most of them were spotted not wearing masks or wearing one incorrectly. The situation was the same in Bathinda and Mansa, though in Ludhiana most farmers made an attempt to wear a mask properly as they moved towards the DC office.
“We were aware that on Saturday there are no public dealings in the DC offices. But we still decided to hold out march today as it was to mark 7 months of our protest outside the Delhi borders. Just like the dark days of the Emergency, people are not being allowed to express their rights, dissent, and opinions, and new laws are being forcibly imposed upon us,” said Saudagar Singh Ghudani, president of BKU Ugrahan, Ludhiana district.
In Bathinda, a protest march was organised till the DC office but no dharna was organised, confirmed Jagseer Singh Jhumba, member of BKU Ugrahan. Jhumba said, “Discipline was the key thing in today’s protest as we focused to send out the message that we are all united in this truggle.”