Through the maze of electrical wires, through the cloud of crows and black kites (cheel), through a very thin layer of smoke that the city makes on its roads, one sees a beautiful sunset. The sun is setting behind a small hill. The hill, if one gets closer, is decades of unsegregated waste produced by dilwalon-ki-dilli. A problem away from their eyes, a problem away from their noses, a problem away from their homes and colonies. Akhon pare, te jag mare, or as they say it a little politely in English – out of sight out of mind.
The farmers have been out of their sight for decades. Occasionally they have seen them on TV dumping their produce on the highways, sometimes they have heard of their suicides, but then they have plenty of their own to worry, plus the primetimes are so informative – they get to know about important suicides there, sometimes for months on one particular most important suicide.
But every now and then there is a storm, a strong wind blows, the stench from the landfill reaches far inside the city, the city that has expanded anyways to encircle the landfill which was once far enough. Every once in a while, the crows and black kites wander farther into the city skies and drop unwanted items onto the city’s roofs and gardens. Every now and then there is a fire at the landfill and smoke rises like a cloud and engulfs the city’s limited imagination. Every now and then, what was out of sight, becomes visible.
On 25th November one such fire broke out. First at the landfill. And then in the countryside. The fire at the landfill engulfed Delhi momentarily before the fire tenders got it under control. But the fire that broke in the countryside created a storm that is still enraging. Farmer – long out of sight, sits at their doorsteps. Like the crows and black kites, like the height of the landfill – an eyesore to Dilwalon-ki-Dilli and Delhi throne.
Google map shows a rather easy route to the protest site. Straight to sector 62, get on the expressway and in 6 km at the Ghazipur border. But google doesn’t account for UP police’s arrangements. All entrances to the Meerut-Delhi side of the expressway are sealed and even the road itself is barricaded at multiple places. As I take the service lane and turn into a narrow lane leading in the general direction of Ghazipur I see a group of 50 odd BKU flag holding youngsters having a confrontation with the police at that barricade. They make it to the protest site much faster than I will. There is strength in numbers.
The largest meat mandi (fish/murga/bakra) in the region and a qutub minar high hill of waste offer enough opportunities for the sky to be full of crows and black kites. These birds, surviving on refuse of the city and the refuse of the meat mandi, have something new to behold from the exclusive view in the skies. A mini township of tents and trolleys.
I sit on the edge of the expressway and listen as speaker after speaker address the gathering (sitting on mats on the expressway). Rakesh Tikait of BKU (Tikait) addresses the gathering. Brijendar (who apparently is from another union) doesn’t allow me to listen to any word Tikait has to say. He has lots to say himself, but with the background sound from speakers I barely understand one of every five words he has to say. What I understand is that he doesn’t like Tikait. He thinks he will sell out – that he is just waiting for the right offer.
A little while later I understand his grudge. Behind the stage where Tikait addressed the crowd, there is another stage. Set up by two unions. Till a few days back they were sharing the same stage till Tikait spoke against the leaders of these two unions, especially against VM Singh of Rashtriya Kisan Majdoor Sanghathan. Although both the stages speak of the same demands – repeal of the three farm laws, for the time being they speak from different stages. A little while later I find another small stage of another union, with the same demands.
The mood at Ghazipur, like at Singhu is festive. There are many langars, a medical camp, a bookstall, a group of young nihangs doing gatka, media, and plenty of police and security personal walking among the crowd, partaking the langar (and hopefully keeping watch). There are youngsters and there are elderly, though not many females. A city lady has her camera out and is walking through the crowd, clicking faces of the elderly from up close – as close as few inches sometimes, of farmers talking, of farmers eating, of farmers sitting – she is spoilt for choices – there are so many faces (what was always out of sight, is so close to it momentarily). Little children from nearby shanties are having their fill from langar. Many poor are standing on the edges with their collection of plastic waste – they seem to have abandoned the landfill for the day to collect the disposable plastics here.
Overhead the crows and black kites dot the sky. They have not ventured to sit on the expressway before. But with the speeding vehicles paused for the moment some of them alight on the sides and on the road. The gathered farmers pose no threat to them. The crows and black kites pose no threat to the gathered farmers.
There are some crows and black kites, who do pose a threat to the gathered farmers. As the sun sets behind the hill of waste, those crows and black kites sit in their gilded halls, in the heart of the city, scheming and planning.