Flowing white beard, a kesari parna, in a simple kurta pyjama and a loyi, Mukhtiar Singh takes centerstage. Standing next to a large pile of local geysers donated for the use of farmers he adapts to a situation he has never encountered in his life before. Being interviewed by journalists.
‘Hum mar jayenge par waapis nahi jayenge.’ ‘We will die but won’t go back.’
‘Aapko maut se dar nahi lagta?’ ‘Are you not afraid of death?’ the journalist asks.
‘Humko maut ki parwah nahi. Wo Sikh hi kya jo maut se darr gaya.’ ‘I am not worried about death. He is not a Sikh who is afraid of death.’
From a village in Pilibhit UP, he owns four acres of land. He has two sons – one drives a combine harvester and other drives a truck. He has two grandchildren – a granddaughter and a grandson.
‘Ye Modi Yogi ka koi parivar hota to unhe dukh hota!’ ‘If Modi Yogi had any family, they might have felt our pain.’
‘Hum yogi ko apna mukhmantri nahi maante. Hamara mukhmantri to VM Singh ji hain. Hamare dukh sukh mein wahi hamare sath hain.’ ‘I don’t consider Yogi to be my chief minister. My chief minister is VM Singh ji (referring to his union leader). He is there for us in sadness and in joy.’
Looking at his clothes the journalists asks him ‘Aapko thand nahi lagti?’ ‘Don’t you feel cold?’
‘Bilkul nahi. Hamare liye yahan badaam aate hain. Pinni aati hai. Jab se aandolan shuru huya hai, hamein ek bhi rupya kharach karne ki zaroorat nahi padi. Sab sangat de rahi hai.’ ‘Absolutely not. We get almonds to eat. We get pinni. Since the start of the movement, I have not had the need to spend anything from my pocket. Everything is being provided by the community.’
‘Kab tak rahenge aap?’ ‘How long will you stay?’
‘Jab tak hum jeet nahi jate.’ ‘Till the time we don’t succeed.’
Pointing towards the Meerut-Delhi expressway – ‘Achchi jagah hai ye. Humne to ab yahan makaan banane ki tayari karni hai. Agar jaldi Modi nahi manta to bas makan banayenge pehle yahan. Fir bhainse bhi le aayenge.’ ‘This is a good space. Now we are going to start constructing homes here. If Modi doesn’t agree fast, we will make homes first. Then we will bring our buffaloes.’
And grabbing the arm of a young boy standing next to him he tells him – ‘pehle gurudwara banayenge yahan. Matha tekne ko.’ ‘First we will make a Gurudwara. To pay our respects.’
It is dark, nearly 7pm on this late December evening. All around Mukhtiar Singh there is a beehive of activity. Food is being cooked and served for thousands at many langars. Mattresses and blankets are being dusted and spread, in preparation for what the met department says are extremely cold nights. The journalists leave after a while. Mukhtiar Singh now sits with a group inside his tent. His mann ki baat and his vigil continues.