On January 29, the union home ministry internet services at Singhu, Ghazipur, Tikri, and adjoining areas where farmers protesting against the farm laws are camped to “maintain public safety and avert public emergency”. Haryana’s BJP government went a step further at Tikri, cutting water and power supply to the protest camp.
The water supply has since been restored at some places and the internet ban is expected to end tonight, but the camp remains without electricity.
At Bahadurgarh, the tailend of the protest camp, about 12 km from the Tikri border, farmers alleged that since Republic Day, when the police’s attempt to stop the protesters marching into Delhi led to violence, the Manohar Lal Khattar government has been “terrorising” them.
“They stopped the water supply after January 26. We take shifts to fetch water. They have even threatened the people where we get water. They were told that if they didn’t stop giving us water, their supply would be cut. We aren’t getting electricity either,” said Dalbir Singh Rathi from Hisar. “There is even pressure on gas suppliers to not give us cylinders. When we called for gas cylinders, the suppliers said they had been strictly told to not sell to us.”
The Tikri protest camp is without electricity.
In spite of all this, the farmers at Tikri said they are staying put. In fact, more farmers from nearby villages have begun arriving with rations, raising spirits all around.
“We saw Tikait Sahab was crying and that brought many of us here,” said Jayakaran Singh from Rohtak, referring to farmer leader Rakesh Tikait, whose on Thursday night refusing to follow the Uttar Pradesh government’s order to vacate the Ghazipur protest camp re-energised the farmer protests after the bleak events of the Republic Day. “We could not sleep, we came right away, at night. Many are coming now.”
Taking a dig at “TV news channels such as Aaj Tak” which were reporting that the protest camps along Delhi’s border with UP and Haryana would be emptied by Saturday morning, he asked, “Where is it empty? Where are the people who were saying so?”
At Tikri on Saturday, farmers from the Jat clan Dalal Khap held a “tiranga rally” to show that they were not leaving and that there was no split between farmers of Haryana and Punjab, contrary to what sections of the media had claimed. “Nearly 10,000 farmers and 2,000 tractors have joined us just today,” said Pradeep Dalal, who participated in the rally. “We mainly want to articulate that the farmers haven’t grown weak, they are in fact stronger to fight the cause now.”
Protesting farmers at Bahadurgarh.
On Friday, a group of about 100 men claiming to be “locals” had come to Tikri and told the farmers to leave. But Maan Singh, 70, from Punjab, who has been with the protest since the first day, is certain they weren’t “local people”. They were bought by the government and posed as “locals”, he alleged, so as to project “animosity” between local people and the protesting farmers.
“The so-called local men were from the RSS,” he claimed. “The government is trying to create a ruckus and make it seem like our protests are driven by religion. We knew this would turn into a religious debate, just like they did with the protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act.”
Kishan Joon, a Delhi University professor who was visiting the Bahadurgarh protest site to show his support for the farmers, echoed this. “We knew that people from the BJP would come, and then Godi Media would generate propaganda saying the farmers did violence.”
'Don't trust Godi Media,' reads this placard at Tikri.
The professor alleged that the mob which threatened the farmers was led by Karanvir Rati and Satpal Rati, whom he described as BJP members who joined the party “when they did not get seats in the Congress”.
Newslaundry could not independently verify his claims.
Rebecca Rose Varghese contributed reporting.
Pictures by Anna Priyadarshini.