Wednesday, May 26, 2021


Ravi Choudhary of PTI was nearby as the lathis of the security personnel swung. Of the many images he clicked one will acquire a life of its own. Rahul Gandhi will tweet it – pointing how Modi has pitched Jawan against Kisan. BJP IT cell – Joseph Goebbel’s of our times - will use its superpower of propaganda to declare Rahul Gandhi’s tweet as propaganda. In a rare act of showing spine in Indian context Twitter will flag BJP IT Cell post as ‘manipulated media’.

The farmer in the image could have been any of the lacs of farmers there that day. But thanks to that little twitter battle, Sukhdev Singh Sangojla from Kapurthala Punjab, will find himself a face of farmers movement. Soon the image will travel the world, be part of social media posts and news stories, become profile picture of countless accounts and from the digital space quickly hit the printers. A variety of posters carrying the moment when state’s brutality is about to leave its marks on the skin of common man will appear. Every other trolley at various tractor-trolley townships around Delhi will carry this image.

It is mid of January, nearly 50 days since the reinforced fiber batons left their marks on his arm, back and leg, I sit inside his trolley in conversation with others who have made this trolley their home. Sukhdev Singh climbs into trolley, returning after taking a bath. He wears a white kurta - probably the same that took the beatings with him. He is still in towel and as he steps in, I see the mark. The evidence that the reinforced fiber baton left on his body. Instinctively my phone rises and I click.

Later that afternoon we head out towards the front of the tractor-trolley township, towards the barricades where Ravi Choudhary clicked that vital moment. After showing me the place where he and some other farmers got lathicharged Sukhdev Singh wants a photo with the security personnel. After taking the photo I ask the Rapid Action Force personnel if they recognize him. Negative. When I tell them, he is the farmer whose image went viral – some of them hesitantly declare that it was a fake photo. BJP IT cell is a powerful being!

There is a large poster carrying the image on the trolley next to Sukhdev Singh’s trolley. This is where he stands when folks ask him for a photograph. He is an ordinary individual; this photo makes him extraordinary. Standing next to the photo is when the others see the extraordinary in him. The posters travelled to various corners of Punjab on the returning trolleys. One such poster found its way on the little black gate of his home. This poster makes this ordinary village home extraordinary.

Six months of harsh weather, sun, rains, storms have taken toll on these posters. Very few still occupy the spaces these occupied six months back. But the more durable iron of tractor trolleys is still here - occupying the space that makes these tractor trolley townships. The number of bodies is less than there were six months back, but more durable of these minds, spirits and bodies carry on – lifeblood of these tractor trolley townships, lifeblood of resistance, lifeblood of hope.

Last evening, I called Sukhdev Singh. He was in his usual cheerful mood.

‘How’s the morcha?’

‘All is well. Sab chardhi kala.’

‘It’s been six months. How much longer?’

‘As long as it takes.’

Six months is a long time. Injuries heal. Visible signs where the stick met the flesh disappear.

Six months is a long time. Lest we forget.

#6MonthsOfFarmersProtest #kisanektamorcha #FarmerProtest

Saturday, February 13, 2021


The cover of Annie Zaidi’s ‘prelude to a riot’ carries in red letters – ‘A white-hot novel about today’s India.’ White hot! Hotter than red-hot! Extremely hot!

Annie’s gripping novel, brilliantly crafted, is an edge of the seat read. In a peaceful southern town live three generations of two families, one Hindu and the other Muslim. In walks change, in walks Self Respect Forum.

26th January - The Debate with Arnab Goswami - ‘These people who you call farmers they disgraced our tricolor today… a group of rioters displayed their cowardice by replacing the tricolor with their own flag… attacking and beating women in the streets of Delhi. Let us introspect, why did we give these goons these rights… why are we allowing it, you and I… when we know if all of us come together we know how to tackle these anti-nationals… why are nationalist Indians quiet today…’

Self Respect Forum has planned a rally. The posters have appeared, including on the walls of Kadir’s Royal Bakery.

Abu to Farida – ‘Our grandfather (Dada) must be the only person in town who does not see it coming.’

Abu to Kadir – Simply put, the writing is on the wall. My wall. Your wall. Rahmat’s wall.

27th January – Arnab Announces # Nationalist Collective – We cannot allow anti-national elements to plunder our country anymore. Time for Nationalists to come together.

Dada’s Soliloquy – ‘A fuller moon than any that has ever been seen before in my stretch of sky. Blood-speckled. It is a true name, after all. Blood moon. I have lost.’

28th January late evening - Nationalist Collective reaches Ghazipur border protest site. Rakesh Tikait – ‘They are conspiring to kill the farmers here. BJP lawmakers are here, they have come here with 300 people with sticks and bullets.’

Garuda’s Soliloquy - ‘You will also hate yourself for hating me. Or maybe not. Maybe it’s a slow habit. This hating habit. It’s been coming along nicely, though.’ ‘No big colonial sword needs to come down and slash the fabric of the nation. Muscle by muscle, atom by atom, we are being torn from within. We are our own bomb.’

29th January – Singhu Border – Nationalist Collective gathers at the barricades. Security personnel choose to be part of it. After sufficient sloganeering of ‘desh ke gaddaron ko,’ the Nationalist Collective marches towards the stage of Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee. Stone by stone. Stick by stick. Teargas shell by teargas shell. We are our own bomb.


Abu to Devaki – Come home. Learn from my grandfather how to grow things. Dada can make rocks bleed green.



Wednesday, February 10, 2021


As he stood along with his ‘people’ at Shambhu border, a tear gas shell hit him – first his right hand and then his leg. It is over 75 days since, the injury to his hand isn’t fully healed. Yet that hasn’t affected his spirits or his pen. The little diary he always carries with him is full now and a second diary is fast filling with revolutionary songs he has been busy writing and singing at Singhu morcha.

Teri vatt te taaran aa paayian

Bani Delhi aj gaddar ve,

Tu khichle tayari Tikri

Singhu aj rahi pukar ve.

Bapu Jagraj is now in his sixties. He was sixteen when he composed his first song in memory of Shaheed Bhagat Singh. Bapu has since written hundreds of songs – some have found space in newspapers and magazines, but Bapu hasn’t made any money of his writings. He sings at various morchas and a few melas.

Bapu says that the present struggle is for farmers and farm labour as the black laws impact both. Himself a farm labourer when asked why is he here? ‘Haq lain layi turna painda hai’ and he sings a few lines.

Mehnatkash lokaan khatir ladna paina hai,

Kadman de naal kadam milake khadna paina hai,

Chup kitiyaan nahiyon sarna

Madho Das ton Banda Bahadur banna paina hai.

Along with his own compositions he sings songs and poems of other revolutionary poets like Sant Ram Udasi and Lal Singh Dil. One evening, as he starts singing ‘Kirti kisano kathe hoke ladhiye, Karaan pranam lahoo rangi madhiye’ the audience starts clapping to the beat. He immediately stops. ‘Giddha nahi pauna, eh sangharsh hai.’ The gathering gets the message. He starts from the beginning. Every time he sings a song, he concludes with ‘Jit Lokan di.’

Along with his diaries, in his pocket he carries a single folded paper. The header in his clear handwriting says - ‘Mahaan deshbhagtan da pind Acharwal (Ludhiana) – jithe Kuka Lehar, Gadhar Lehar te Inquilabi Lehar de yodha paida hoye.’ Kuka Lehar - 1. S. Ram Singh, 2. S Mehtab Singh; Gadhar Lehar - 3. S. Daan Singh, 4. S. Mal Singh, 5. Pandit Godhiram, 6. Shaheed S Kehar Singh, 7. S Amar Singh, 8. S Hazara Singh;  Inquilabi Lehar – 9. Shaheed Comrade S Amar Singh.

As I look at the injury to his hand from the tear gas shell, he says proudly, ‘Satt vaji, par main hath vichon jhanda nahi diggan ditta.’

There is space at the bottom of the page – for a tenth name. Kisani Lehar – 10. S. Jagraj Acharwal will sit in the company of the nine easily, proudly and honorably.







Wednesday, February 03, 2021


‘I, Baljit Kaur, daughter of Shri Bant Singh, am a resident of Burj Jhabbar in Mansa district, Punjab. I was gang-raped on July 6, 2002. I did not conceal the incident and along with my father waged a struggle for justice…’ As Nirupama Dutt met Baljit for the first time, this testimony played in her mind and she wondered if she would be able to talk with Baljit about it all, ask her to relive it all again. Dutt writes, ‘I was to realize later that my hesitation arose from the comfort of my own relatively privileged existence. Those who are pushed to the wall find the courage to tell their tale of woe over and again.’

The comfortable living rooms of the relatively privileged wonder - In the coldest winter in decades, amidst pouring rains, surrounded by indifferent citizenry and hostile state, why are the farmers on the roads?

Bant Singh is a member of Mazdoor Mukti Morcha. Apart from helping and organizing members of his union, at all union events Bant sings songs of Sant Ram Udasi. ‘Maan dhartiye teri god nu chan hor bathere, tu maghda rahi ve surja kameya de vehre.’ Bant was not one to be cowed down and he waged a battle for justice and in 2004 in a rare occurrence of a Dalit winning a legal battle against an upper caste, got conviction for three. This legal win was to come at an even bigger cost and an even bigger battle awaited him. On the evening of 5th January 2006, Bant Singh was ambushed by associates of the rapists and brutally beaten with iron rods and axes.

Farmers occupied roads and railway tracks for months. Govt ignored them. Farmers were not one to be cowed down and they marched towards Delhi and camped at its borders. A govt. that first refused to talk with them, refused to let them march towards Delhi, refused to acknowledge anything was wrong in the farm laws, and a govt. which used pliant media to paint them in the color of separatists, relented bit by bit (can enter Delhi, can amend laws, can suspend laws for a duration, etc.) These little wins came at a great cost – over 180 lives lost so far. But even bigger battle awaited them. 26th January arrived and the morcha got ambushed. The spirit of lacs of marching tractors was brutally beaten and crushed.

By the time Bant Singh reached PGI Chandigarh, 48 hours after the assault on him, gangrene had set in. when informed that both his arms and one leg will need to be amputated, he said ‘I suppose the doctors know best. Anyway, what use are my arms and legs, I have to sing with my throat. As long as a Comrade’s throat is not slit, it is all right.’ 18 days after his amputation, still in a serious condition, Bant surprised doctors and fellow patients by singing songs of Udasi from his sickbed.

The mob is pelting stones at the gathered farmers as police stands guard, watching, even encouraging and protecting the mob. Someone throws a crude petrol bomb on the ladies’ shelter. Someone smashes the washing machines. A sewadar at the langar is pulled into the mob and along with the mob, the police rain lathis on him. But their throats are not slit, not yet. From the gathering where tear gas is being shelled comes the sound of sangat chanting ‘Satnam Waheguru, Satnam Waheguru.’ From the throat of the sewadar, with his turban removed, his hair loose, his forehead bleeding, erupts the blessed Jo Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal. As the state got ready to amputate the morcha, tears of one man surprised the nation. Morcha began to sing again.

Annie Zaidi in ‘Known Turf’ asks, ‘And what do you do when a man minus three limbs in a government hospital’s trauma ward begins to sing?’ Nirupama Dutt answers – quite simple, really – you salute his spirit.

One evening at Sanjhi Sath, at Singhu, Bapu Jagraj, who has filled a diary with his poems since he has been at the Morcha recites one for all present, ‘Kirti kisano kathe hoke ladhiye, Karaan pranam lahoo rangi madhiye.’ A sea of red flags marches towards the main stage at Singhu border - Zamin Prapti Sangharsh Committee and Pendu Mazdoor Union members are here in hundreds. Slogans of Kisan Mazdoor Ekta fill the air. Few days back a speaker on the stage said, ‘we are all sitting as one here – kisan-mazdoor, Punjab-Haryana, male-female. We will win this battle with govt, but the real morcha will start when we head back homewards.’ Often in the morcha one hears the slogan, ‘Baba Nanak teri soch te, pehra deyange thok ke.’ Denunciation of caste is one of the primary teachings of Guru Nanak. As and when the morcha heads back, may the teachings of Nanak and learnings from the morcha travel with it.

Nirupama Dutt dedicates the book to the revolutionary poet of Punjab, Sant Ram Udasi, ‘whose songs gave Bant Singh the strength to sing, fight and live with dignity.’ ‘Meri maut te na royeo, meri soch nu bachayeo. Mere lahu da kesar, rete vich na ralaeyo.’

Many revolutionary poets, singers, writers are giving strength to the farmers morcha – ‘to sing, fight and live with dignity.’

Nirupama Dutt’s Ballad for Bant Singh then, in part, is also a ballad for all those struggling for their rights.

Yes, in Punjab, we love to sing

But today we will sing not

Of ‘old and distant unhappy things’

Nor of ‘battles long ago’ –

We will sing, yes we will sing, of

This day, of the here and the now

Of those who refused to bow

Those who can tell us how

Songs of hope are born in want

Why some can have it all

Why some cannot.







A few miles inside the Singhu tractor-trolley township, a group of elderly sit holding chart papers with slogans. S. Avtar Singh, S Sarabjeet Singh, S Harminder Singh, S Jaswinder Singh, S Vihara Singh, and S Hakam Singh are all from same village in Ropar district. Each poster they hold delivers a message to the state. ‘Asi atwadi nahi, asi satwadi haan’. ‘Na darde, na dabde, singh delhi vich gajde.’ ‘Sun modi te shah, sanu na koi parwah, aayi te aa gaye putt jattan de, tainu pa denge rah.’ Each of the posters they hold bear the same signature – Simar.

A short distance behind the Singhu main stage, Simarjeet sits with a pile of chart papers and a set of permanent markers. A few posters are pasted on the tent just behind him. One of these posters reads – ‘Jo dil karda likhwa sajna, raj lahanta modi nu paa sajna.’

Simar came to Singhu mid of December. He got a chart paper and wrote a slogan on it. As he stood with the poster, someone asked for the poster and took it with him. He made another poster for himself only for someone else to carry it away into the sea of tractor-trolleys. That’s when he knew what was needed of him, what his contribution to the morcha will be. He went to the market and got himself a pile of chart papers and a set of markers and sat down to put on paper the slogans of the morcha, by the morcha, for the morcha.

Tau Sukhveer Singh walks to Simar’s table. ‘Ik poster likh mera,’ he demands of Simar. Simar writes what Tau says. Tayu wants a photo also. He walks behind Simar’s chair. The person holding his camera says, ‘Tayu poster pakadiye haath mein.’ Tayu rebukes him, ‘Nahi, aise kheench.’ And he places his hand on Simar’s head in a blessing.

Kanwar Garewal in Pecha exhorts ‘Aklan waleyo chacklo kalma.’ Walk along the length of Singhu and one finds posters in Simar’s kalam on trolleys, tractors, tents, and in hands of people sitting, and walking around. ‘Jo dil karda likhwa sajna, raj lahanta modi nu paa sajna.’







Sunday, January 31, 2021


Gurwinder Singh volunteers in the security team at Singhu tractor-trolley township. It is almost two months since he left his home in Tarn Taran to come join the morcha.

As he prepared to depart from his home, his wife handed him his aadhar card.

‘I won’t need this,’ he said.

‘Please take it and keep it with you all the time,’ she said.

‘Why?’ he asked.

Holding back her tears she said, ‘In case the morcha requires your sacrifice, they will know the address where to send your body.’


It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy. How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened. But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something.

What are we holding on to, Sam?

That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.







Saturday, January 30, 2021


Charan Singh is 70. He travelled on Kisaan Express, his bicycle, a non-stop service from Tanda to Delhi, a journey of 400kms bearing a message – all journeys will end, if farmer is finished.

His friends are taking him around Singhu tractor-trolley township, on what appears to be a lap of honor. Surinder Singh, 70, was an educator. He says, ‘Tell the youth if Charan Singh can reach here on cycle, they should be able to reach here on tractors.’ It is 19th Dec – within a few days, youngsters would have more than fulfilled his wish, with Singhu’s strength increasing manifold.

I ask Charan Singh if he will participate in the rally on his cycle. ‘I will be getting a tractor here with my life savings. Dedicated to the movement and the tractor rally. Going to book it today, arrangements have been done.’

For someone who is 70 and has pedaled 400kms, he doesn’t look or sound tired – there is a silent determination in his being.

Surinder Singh adds, ‘He has decided that this cycle and the tractor will not be used again once we are back. These will not be sold but kept in the family in the memory of the morcha.’

All four of them are looking into future and in this moment see it as well – and find themselves alive in this proud heirloom for generations.

‘Will you be driving the tractor?’ I ask Charan Singh.

‘Yes, of course.’

I already know who all will be accompanying him on the tractor in the rally. Looking at the tractor riders the words escape me - ‘Then the victory is guaranteed.’

Surinder Singh ji says, ‘If willpower is strong, then we can win all battles.’ He takes a short pause and then asks me, ‘You agree with the words?’ 

I could not agree more.







Friday, January 29, 2021


‘Marne ke liye bahut acha mausam hai.’ Camping with farmers for two months at Singhu tractor-trolley township brings the krantikari poet out of everyone. But these words don’t belong to any ordinary krantikari.

Dr Ashok Sharma, Senior Medical Officer with Rajasthan govt, a gentle, kindly, almost divine soul, has a special place in his heart for his patients. And the patients reciprocate the relation, to the point that last two attempts to transfer him had led to protests by locals and his transfer was stopped. Since the Covid lockdown he handled 29000 patients till end of November, without a break and without a leave day.

As he was getting ready for a small break, he heard of the farmers protests and their camps at the borders of Delhi. Something tugged at his heart. He applied for a week’s leave – Dec 9 to Dec 15. The leave was denied by his superiors. But that tug at his heart became a strong pull - he submitted his retirement, VRS, papers.

He got the seats of his van removed, threw in a mattress, and his mobile camp-clinic was ready. Few friends contributed and 1lac was raised for buying medicine. Kuldeep Singh, a young medical attendant/driver joined, and they were on their way from Udaipur early morning December 9. That evening they parked the van at this stop, deep inside Singhu tractor-trolley township, after a journey of 744km and the tyres have not moved since.

He sees 40-50 patients every day. And his patients, the farmers, have adopted him as one of their own. It is like his transfer story – there is no way they are letting ‘Doctor Sahab’ go to Rajasthan without first showing him Punjab.

When a news channel reported about him not getting leave, Rahul Gandhi intervened, and Rajasthan government approved his one week leave. Now they call him every week asking for his return date. They have not accepted his VRS yet.

There is a rush around his van in the evenings. Cough, cold, back pains, loose motions, BP and sleep problems are the common concerns. An elderly walks up and asks if he has cream for mosquitoes. Dr Sharma doesn’t keep it in his stock, but without a second thought he digs under the seat and takes out odomos from his personal kit and hands over. When there are no patients, he reads Gandhi.

‘When I planned to come here, I didn’t know it would be this important for me. I feel it is as if all my life was preparation for something. Now I know. Being here was the purpose of my life.’








Tau Chandar is 82. He joined police in Delhi after independence. Pointing towards the highway and the buildings all around he says, ‘ehan kuch na tha tab.’

One day ‘daroga’ of his police station took two hundred rupees bribe from someone to get rid of a relative. Tau was close by and as the conversation proceeded Tau felt ashamed and angry at the uniform. When the daroga pocketed the money and agreed to do the needful Tau couldn’t take it anymore. Tau tells me he was strong in those days. He got hold of the daroga and thrashed him there and then. Daroga threatened him that he will get him transferred. Tau resigned the same day. As he left the police station, he told the daroga, ‘lele apni naukri chutad mein.’ As Tau remembers his parting shot at the corrupt system, there is youth and pride in his voice and a million watt smile on his face.

He is happy now, having worked his fields for decades, surrounded by children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Why is he here? ‘Gandi sarkaar laayi hai. Do mahine se baithe hain.’

What will happen next? ‘Ghadar hoga.’








As I walk towards the main stage at Singhu tractor trolley township, I stop at Sarhali Sahab langar for my daily cup of badam-akharot milk they serve whole day. To my right washing machines and volunteers manning them are busy serving a langar of washed clothes, busy keeping the clothes of the morcha clean and it’s spirits high. There are over 300 langars in the first ten kilometres of this township, that extends beyond twenty today.

On the other side of the narrow path where the morcha walks, volunteers have set up cloth ironing langar. I notice the tricolor being carefully ironed, to be worn as the morcha’s izzat, to be held high along with the heads making the morcha.
Chingari ko sholon mein badalna aasan hai,
Mushkil hai to chingari ko paida karna.
Board is set. Pieces are moving. We come at last, to the greatest 26th January of our lives. To the greatest langar for the republic. Come join it, be part of it. If not in body, then in spirit. Cheer for it, pray for it.


Wednesday, January 20, 2021


The sword of revolution is sharpened on the whetstone of ideas. — Shaheed Bhagat Singh.

The daily meeting and sharing of ideas is on at Sanjhi Sath – a shared space, a village meeting place. First half of the day this little corner at Singhu tractor trolley township is a nursery - full of little children, from nearby shanties, playing, drawing, learning to read and write – a place where the seeds for ideas are planted. Every evening it turns a whetstone - for two hours farmers, volunteers, elderly, young, grown trees and young saplings, all shades gather here, ideas gather here, and the sword is sharpened.

Rajwant Kaur is sharing her story. A young and upcoming lyricist and singer, when she discussed her song ‘Bhagat Singh tera maqsad lokin bhulde jane ne’ ‘Bhagat Singh, masses are slowly forgetting your purpose,’ the music director told her that if she wants to become popular, she should sing on popular themes, revolutionaries and their ideas don’t sell anymore.

Today, sitting opposite young Rajwant, two meters away, is Gurjit Kaur Dhatt, 68years old niece of Shaheed Bhagat Singh. Rajwant begins to choke up. ‘We have grown up reading Bhagat Singh. But to meet his blood in person, as part of a revolution… ’ She starts crying. The words stop. The revolutionary fervor, the idea spreads. In its powerful silence, it takes in the gathering at Sanjhi Sath, it engulfs the tractor trolley township, and it reaches out to the nation.

After she has composed herself and after she had reassured the gathering and more so her own very self that she will keep her words true to her soul, on request of the gathering she sings for everyone. ‘Jaag ja Punjabiya, sambhal jimmevariyan.’

His legacy lives on. New legacies sprout from the seeds he planted.

The sword is still sharp.




Parasdeep’s day job is home care of elderly and patients. Covid ensured he stopped getting called into homes. It was not a regular work anyways. Alongside he sells popcorn in the evenings. The setup is mobile – the roaster on wheels, fit behind his motorcycle - and he drives from village to village. His family doesn’t own any land. He isn’t a farmer. Yet he wanted to contribute to the farmer’s movement. Few friends helped collect 9500 rupees, and along with whatever materials he had at home he left for Singhu.

A few weeks around Lohri his sales are better. When his mother reminded him that he shouldn’t miss the festival sale period he promised her to be back in 3 days. 9500 rupees won’t last that long anyways.

Couple of social media channels covered his popcorn langar. The videos circulated around and reached his village. At the end of the third day, as he was getting ready to pack-up and return, he received a phone call from his village panchayat. They thanked him for showing them the way. And told him that a tractor-trolley from the village was on its way. He won’t need to shut down for the lack of funds. The popcorn langar will continue for as long as he would like to continue.

‘Then it will continue till the farmers are here.’ What about your promise to your mother to get back in three days? ‘She is very happy now. She said I can do sewa as long I need to.’

Two weeks after reaching here, he continues the sewa, as youngsters from his village join him and help. A few elderly from the village sit in the trolley, watching them with pride. It took a Paras’ touch to turn their youth into gold.

The roaster has run the cycle, the corn is ready, it puffs and expands and bursts out. Corn like masses. Masses like corn. All it takes is a touch of Paras.







Saturday, January 16, 2021


She has spent her day walking through the lanes of the tractor-trolley township. It has never been like this for her. The food is aplenty. She picks and choose – she is developing a taste! Now she walks back to her resting place. In the harsh winter, the little corner with plastic and rugs underneath and a plastic overhead is the most comfortable it has been for her ever.

He returns to his tent after a day of volunteer duty at the stage. She gets up and rush to him, she squeaks like a little child, her tail hasn’t wagged with this much excitement ever. He pats her, humors her, plays with her.

Back in Punjab he has already adopted two strays. He hasn’t named her yet, but it appears a third one is on her way to join the other two.

Where there were highspeed vehicles all day long, that could crush her without a pause in their journey, the stray has found a home.  Where humanity was passing by, in a rush of madness, the stray has found a human.




Friday, January 15, 2021

47. 84. 2020.

Walking through the tractor-trolley townships at Tikri and Singhu, one finds posters saying ‘Santali (47) Dekhi, Chaurasi (84) Dekhi. 2020 Dikhawange.’ Most of the youngsters who carry these posters on their tractors, trolleys and tents have only seen 47 and 84 through stories. But stories are powerful. We live in stories and stories live in us. However, there are some here, who define these posters.

Sardar Nachattar Singh Garewal was 13 years old at the time of partition. He remembers going with fellow villagers to walk Muslims from his village to the safety of camp Raikot. He remembers with much more clarity and detail his days in Nagpur during the pogrom of 84. He used to drive a truck and was on road when the killings started. He remembers parking his truck on roadside, removing a tyre, putting a jack and creating an impression of a broken vehicle. He remembers cutting his hair and beard. He remembers hiding in a Gurudwara and then hiding in cotton fields for days.

He isn’t hiding anymore. 84 Dekhi. 2020 Dikhawange. He stands tall, with his unions flag held high. He walks all day long chanting Inquilab Zindabad. As you approach and greet him, he breaks into a radiant smile and gives you hug, full of affection and kindness. And if you spend a few minutes with him, he makes you part of his story, he makes his story part of yours. And if you ask for a photo, he raises his flag and his arms, and his voice rings out Inquilab Zindabad. And when you say goodbyes, he embraces you in a hug again, a hug of brotherhood, a hug of blessing, a hug of memories, a hug for centuries, a hug for humanity.





Ajeetpal Singh is a 2003 Chemical Engineering graduate. He worked with Maruti after graduation. He now runs his own event management firm. He is not involved in agriculture directly, but his family is. He wanted to create awareness about the farmers movement and contribute in what little way he could. So, around 20th December, he along with his family and friends, a group of 12 including elderly, ladies and children, started their journey from Anandpur Sahib towards Singhu on foot.

Anandpur Sahib to Singhu is about 290kms. They walked 570 kms covering many villages and towns on the way and reached Singhu in 12 days. They spoke with residents of villages they visited. They spoke with shopkeepers of the towns they crossed.

‘Our plan was to stay here for 4-5 days, but once we reached here and started sewa, we just don’t have the heart to leave.’ Ajeetpal’s throat chokes, his eyes water as he discusses his journey to this place about fifty meters behind the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha’s stage, where he spends is days cleaning, mending, polishing footwear of the farmers.

He was touched by the hospitality of the Haryana villagers wherever they stayed. And he was moved by the poverty of masses they crossed along the highways. ‘We were not carrying much with us. We had some clothes that we gave to few at one place. In no time there was a big queue of the needy.’ He is a gentle soul, there is pain in his words and water in his eyes as he says his words. ‘I had always heard that the journey is more important than the destination. Now I know.’

The sole of the shoe in his hand has come off on one side. He cleans the shoe with a dry cloth and picks up the tube of fixing lotion. He is cleaning and polishing his society’s soul a shoe at a time. He is mending its hurts a shoe at a time. His humanity seeps into those shoes and becomes a part of many other journeys.




Thursday, January 14, 2021


It is dark. The tractor-trolley township at Singhu is asleep (mostly). A solitary figure walks its lanes with a stick in one hand. As he crosses an unlit section of the narrow muddy service road, which sees all the local traffic in the day, he turns on the torch light. Occasionally, he blows the whistle that hangs around his neck.

‘In the first few nights after reaching here, there were some incidents where tractor tyres were punctured. I started spending my nights walking along the camp. Initially I walked for a kilometer or two in one round. Now I walk longer route.’

His longer route is a round of about 7-8 kilometers. He starts at 8pm. He stays on his duty till 5am. He does five rounds during this time. 35-40 kilometers, every cold, foggy, wet, wintery night of this festival of resistance.

Wherever he crosses other group of volunteers, or those who are serving overnight langars – they greet him, they ask him to come sit with them - a talk, a story, a cup of tea maybe, next round he says.

Meet Bir Singh, 62 years young, with a spring in his steps and with God in his words. Walk with him. By the end of that one round of 7-8kms, you would have learned much from the ocean of knowledge that resides in this humble servant of society. He talks politics, he talks society, he talks of Farid, of Kabir, of Nanak, of Gobind, he recites them and explain it with the devotion of a beloved. He talks humanity.

Uth Farida sutteya duniya dekhan ja, shayad koi mil jaye baksheya te tu vi baksheya ja, Tureya Tureya ja Farida Tureya Tureya ja…



Sunday, January 10, 2021


It was only a century ago a boy named Bhagat Singh, all of eight years, was growing guns in his fields. 

(image credit - BKU Ugrahan FB page)

ਮੇਰੀ ਉਮਰ ਕਿਤਾਬ ਦਾ ਵੇਖ ਲੈ

ਤੂੰ ਹਰ ਇਕ ਵਰਕਾ ਪੜ੍ਹ ।

ਜਦੋਂ ਭਾਰੀ ਬਣੀ ਹੈ ਮਾਂ 'ਤੇ

ਮੇਰੇ ਪੁੱਤਰ ਆਏ ਚੜ੍ਹ ।

Open the book of my life,

Each and every page you read.

When mother faced threats

My sons have risen and led.

(Afzal Randhawa @ Tikri)




Saturday, January 09, 2021

PANJAB - Journeys Through Fault Lines

From the first words, ‘Je ho ji tu samjhe mahiya, Oho ji main hain nahin’ ‘What you know of me, my dear, I am not that’, as the epigram to the last words 553 pages later, ‘However, like all communities painted into a corner, Panjab is a lot about not accepting how anyone understands it,’ Amandeep Sandhu’s ‘PANJAB – Journeys Through Fault Lines’ is an attempt, not the first, nor hopefully the last, but a sincere, detailed, timely and a significant one, at understanding the enigma that is Panjab.

Born and brought up outside the state, Sandhu’s journeys to fill a Panjab shaped hole in his heart, provide the reader with an understanding of much that is hidden of the stories of this land of rivers, green revolution, bhangra beats, langars, and perceived prosperity in general, and gives us a peak into what ails it - the agrarian distress, fast disappearing watertable, pesticide-insecticide made toxic lands, cancer trains, mounting farm debts, and farmer suicides, and walks us through its many fault lines - a society deeply divided on caste lines, people hurt at state apathy towards the grain bowl of the nation, a generation still not healed from the injuries from the dark decades, from blue star and 84, a generation caught in the trappings of drugs, and a generation leaving the shores to dollar-lands.

In the epilogue Sandhu writes, ‘Throughout its long history, Panjab has always been more than its geography and its people. It has symbolized an idea of resistance and rebellion. In the past, in spite of grievous wounds, Panjab has always risen and proved its critics wrong. I believe that someday this Panjab too will rise to its challenges – in its own eclectic way.’

Should Sandhu have undertaken his journeys and made this call of his Panjab much earlier? Because it appears that Panjab has heard him. It has risen.

The fault lines are being challenged.

As one ‘journeys’ through the tractor-trolley townships of resistance at Singhu and Tikri, one sees and hears a call of ‘Udhta Panjab nahi Padhta Panjab.’

As the tractors, overloaded with youngsters and their enthusiasm, march past, one doesn’t hear ‘guns’ or ‘ganglands’ or loud sound with meaningless words. The sound systems on these tractors now sing of glorious past, of heroes, of revolution.

Kisan is here in large numbers. Majdoor has arrived. Dalit is supporting Jutt. Kirti Kisan, Kisan Majdoor, show up on union flags together at every few steps. Kisan Majdoor ekta is the resounding slogan.

Bebe is here. Mutiyar is here. Out of the boundaries of home and communities, they are at frontline, their support, strength and voice are here.

Faith is here. Its rigidity a little fluid.

In the first edition of Trolley Times, battleground publication of Farmer’s movement, Tanveer tells a short story of two farmers – ‘My neighboring village is Bappiana, District Mansa. Two farmers from there have gone to Delhi. To the sit in. Their fields share a boundary. One of them has a chicken farm. They had a quarrel and are not on speaking terms. One of them has sued the other. This morning, the one who has filed the case says to the other - “here, brother, drink tea”. He sits near him. After a while of silence, he says - “Brother, first thing when I get back, I’m going to take back my lawsuit against you.” Delhi has lost. Both have won the battle.’

The fault lines in Panjab are real, with deep roots. But this awakening gives it hope. A hope that can be built upon to find a way out of the ‘depression that gnaws at it and erodes it.’

At the beginning of his journeys, a friend advised Sandhu to look beyond the windows and doors of Panjab and try to see which pillars still stand. Another friend said, ‘If you want to understand Panjab, be ready to count its corpses.’

Sandhu concludes, ‘Having walked through the fields filled with corpses to which Danish had pointed, having looked at its windows and doors, I had found that the only pillars that stood in the ruin of Panjab were its resistance to power and hegemony. That was, that is and that will always be Panjab.’

In this festival of resistance, the bodies are piling up. The list of the ‘martyrs’ of the movement continues to grow. And from their ashes new pillars are rising.

It is too early to say which direction this movement will take and where this movement will take Panjab and its people. But there is a new hope. Panjab rises – ‘in its own eclectic way.’




2020 – LOCKDOWN BOOKS REVOLUTION SERIES#3 - PANJAB - Journeys Through Fault Lines

Friday, January 08, 2021


Baba Banda Singh Nagar, Chacha Ajit Singh Nagar, Bibi Gulab Kaur Nagar, Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar and Shaheed Sadhu Singh Takhtupura Nagar. Miles long tractor-trolley township of those struggling for their rights at Tikri is divided into these five cities named after historical personalities who represent a legacy of struggles.

Under the metro line for a few kilometers, each metro pillar is an address for the homes the farmers have made for last seven weeks. Pillar 772 is Faridkotiyan da langar. Pillar 783 on one side is Shaheed Bhagat Singh Library and on the other side a tent city.

And as the coiled snake, that this tractor-trolley township is, unwinds for twenty kilometers away from the metro, markers appear – a new plantation of milestones and addresses.

Village Rodewala is here and so is village Aulakh. These are only a few miles from Sangroor and Kotkapura as the milestones indicate. Talwandi Malian welcomes you, ji aayan nu. A few miles away are Daya Kalan and Kishanpura Kalan. Somewhere in this tractor-trolley township there indeed breathes a Sangroor, a Kotkapura, a Daya Kalan and a Kishanpura Kalan.

Someone has taken up the challenge to raise Pind California. Welcome signs are up and half of the under-construction bus stand next to the road, where resistance lives for now, has already been converted to a comfortable lodging for females. As the labour employed by state continues to complete the construction of the bus stand, so does the labour of the volunteers stay busy making these half-completed rooms at the bus stand into livable lodges.

And in the cemented open space of this un-operational bus stand we meet Sihauda. There are fires burning in their chulhas as children, youngsters, elderly all work on getting their next meal ready. I look at clouds above and try to gauge if the skies can match the fire burning inside the residents of Sihauda.

Bapu Zora Singh, 74 years, welcomes me as he pads the mattress next to him. I jump over the rear door of the trolley. From a village in Sangroor we have soon found relatives who live in villages 5 miles apart. That’s much more acquaintance than required here in this township of resistance than if we were neighbours in the indifferent million bungalows and highrises a few kilometers away.

Their tarpaulin developed some holes so the water from last rain entered their trolley, half of their mattresses and quilts are wet and with no Sun these will stay wet for a while. But that is no deterrent to bapu ji’s spirit. When asked about his health – he says chardi kala, body and spirits are in a blessed high.  When asked till when he will stay here – ‘ja tan jitke jawanage, ya marke,’ ‘will return victorious or dead.’

Over seventy deaths in seven weeks. The final address in the journey of many who joined this movement. Each passing day, the number on this particular milestone increases. Yet, the inconsiderate and indifferent tweet for Ganguly’s heart surgery and America’s Capitol Hill. For the moment there is no Sanjay who speaks truth to this Dhritrashtra.

Singhu, Tikri, Ghazipur, Chilla, Shahjahanpur, Palwal are now not just ordinary points on highways and expressways, that we crossed on our travels without a second thought (or while cursing the traffic jams at tolls). These are now names that bring with them images of tractor-trolley townships, roadside tent cities, and lacs of sons of soil raising their and in turn their people’s voice amidst biting winters and pouring rains and a short distance away from inconsiderate center of power and those indifferent millions dwelling in comfortable highrises and bungalows. These names are new addresses of a nation’s awakening and every setting sun, over a day and over a life, a new milestone on this journey.




Tuesday, January 05, 2021


The market is in full swing. There are some selling socks – ‘6 jodi garam juraab 100 ke,’ there are few selling bags - from small handbags to full size luggage bags, there are many piles of jackets, shoes, belts, towels, there are a few cobblers, there are mobile cover kiosks, and there are few selling boiled eggs and omellete, fruits walas - guava in particular, and there are salad and chat walas. The market is tailored for the crowd that walks through it. Atmosphere is electric. The crowd more than any Sunday market in any crowded corner of any city.

Squeezed on one side of the highway, left open as pedestrian access by the security barricades, the market has come up on the path that everyone uses to reach the Singhu protest site, the main stage of Kisan Sanyukt Morcha and the tractor-trolley township beyond it. Ever since the stage of Kisan Majdoor Sangharash Committee came up on this side of the barricades the pedestrian traffic has zoomed and so has the number of sellers.

Adjoining the few hundred meters of the market is the barricaded section, now with a handful of security personnel, along with the state machinery for crowd control – the riot control vehicles and Varun – the water canon mounted vehicle. For now, the crowd flows uncontrollably, a river, having created their own channel. For now, the state machinery stands helpless, witness to and at mercy of the real power, people.

On the barricade raised along the walkway, where the river flows, a charlatan has left a message for another charlatan.

In the sky right above the state machinery, at the point that is marked as a border by the state, a solitary kite flies. It soars like the spirit of people underneath.




Sunday, January 03, 2021


‘A hundred million and more’ is a kind of dedication that isn’t obvious as one turns the cover and starts reading Manreet Sodhi Someshwar’s literary masterpiece ‘The Radiance of a Thousand Suns.’ As one starts this journey with Niki, at her arrival, born to Roop, under the watch of Biji, Zohra Nalwa, and in the fleshy, stout, ‘capable hands’ of Nooran, we meet partition and its ghosts, we see Punjab of 80s and its dark days, we find India and the madness of mass sterilizations and pogroms, and we find a cast of characters as resilient and deep as the land. We travel with Niki on her journey to complete her father’s unfinished book, we travel with her in search of Jyot, the thread that is woven with pain of 47, of 84 and of 9/11.

And amidst the myth and history, past and present, that surrounds Niki, we meet them. Aborted before they are born, illegally, because the family wanted a son, we meet these hundred million and more unborn girls.

At Singhu border, dressed in white salwar kameej, possibly her school dress, with a portable mike in her hand a young girl leads a group of girls and women. She says – Punjab Haryana, the group behind her shouts – zindabad zindabad.

It is Punjab and Haryana that have led the way in silencing those millions of voices. But… and hopefully this is that key moment… when these voices find themselves.

Dressed in track suit, she drives a tractor. Two girls sit on each side. The trolley behind the tractors is full of women, elderly with her heads covered in pallus sitting in the middle, young with their ponytails swinging and hair flying in the wind standing on the sides.

They come on their scooties. A march of scooties and girl power.

She is volunteering with NGOs and she is out in her schools, colleges, towns, cities organizing support for those sitting at various protest sites.

She is there reporting live, she is there compiling stories, and she is there publishing and distributing trolley times.

She is on social media, creating and supporting the narrative. She fights the IT cell and makes her own hashtags and trends.

She is on stage. Addressing gatherings with her knowledge, her passion, her strength.

She is a voice everywhere at these tractor-trolley townships.

This is that moment, hopefully, from where their voices will carry power to their hinterlands and homes. And those millions and more will not be voiceless anymore.  





Saturday, January 02, 2021


Surinder from Mohali feeds dough balls to the roti making machine. The machine delivers 600 rotis an hour. The power for the machine comes from the lines passing along the highway. A few days back the officials came to remove their power supply, but the locals didn’t let them. They have now extended the wires to all trolleys, kitchens and lit up the open areas with halogen lights. Their colony has grown roots.

Their colony and their langar is right in front of a fairly famous highway dhaba – Rasoi. The owner is losing a business of many lacs a month but has opened the facilities for the protesting farmers. The langar runs from early morning to late evening. The hour I spend there with Surinder, the rows of the langar are full to capacity. Along with the protesting farmers, locals working around the area, poor from nearby shanties, travelers passing through, visitors, all partake of the langar.

Supplies? Surinder says after initial few days they haven’t had to touch their rations. Villagers from the region have taken over the supply. Someone brings wood, someone delivers dry ration, someone delivers vegetables or fruits, someone delivers milk and lassi, someone brings water tankers. Everyone in the region is contributing and supporting.  

‘You should try the lassi they bring, it is the best.’ Before I say my byes to him a tempo with drums of lassi drives in. Tau with the tempo is from a village few miles away from the highway. ‘The whole village contributes. We bring a tempo of milk and lassi every day.’ How long will they continue? ‘As long as it takes.’ They fill a tub with lassi and drive to the next langar. I get a glass of it. Indeed, the best.

Surinder points me to a table laden with bread. Three days back some locals came with truck full of bread. They have been serving bread pakoras with tea for few hours every morning last two days and the bread will last them another two. I see similar piles of bread at few other langars, voluntarily and anonymously offered.

I am sitting with Balwinder Singh ji from Fatehgarh, a few kilometers from where Surinder has set camp. ‘We haven’t even touched the atta we brought.’ Just to prove the point, at that very moment a young Harayanvi approaches with folded hands, ‘Sardarji aatta laye hain’. Balwinder ji tells him that they have plenty for the moment. The young man insists, ‘please take one bag.’ Balwinder ji shows him the stock. The young man reluctantly moves towards the tempo laden with aata with a promise ‘fir aayenge’ and heads to next langar. Balwinder ji says -‘It is unprecedented, they thought that they could bring the Sutluj Yamuna Link issue and divide Punjab and Haryana. The region has shown that there are some links older and much stronger.’

Ever since a Punjabi baba answered a reporter’s Hindi query with, ‘Modi ko to mookiyon naal kutega jake,’ he and his commandment has gone viral. And Harayanvi pugilists have joined these Punjabi pehalwans with fervor. The differences that borders created or were meant to create have been erased for this moment.

Surinder says, ‘living in Mohali, he moves through Panchkula, Chandigarh and Mohali every day.’ For him these state borders have never existed. For the moment Punjab Haryana stand together Baaee Baaee, as brothers, once again.




Friday, January 01, 2021


In Sunjeev Sahota’s ‘The year of the runaways,’ Avtar, Randeep, Tarlochan, Gurpreet and many others, having made it to UK – via dangerous journeys on illegal routes, with help of visa-wives, under the guise of study visas, having jumped tourist visas – share a rundown house in Sheffield as they struggle for survival and as they attempt to open the doors to a future that they believed they would find here when they undertook those journeys.

They work sixteen hours x seven days to make less than eight hours x five days of ‘legal’ residents as the contractors exploit them, they sleep few hours a day with their little bags packed in case of immigration office raids, they sleep under bridges in freezing nights, they undercut each other to stay on jobs, many a times they fight, they brave sickness and injury, they leave the one who needs hospital care at the emergency doors when there is no other option – as deportation awaits at the other end of hospital exit, they make it through a day at a time, a week’s worth of earning at a time, a work season at a time, they make it alive through a year, through the year of the runaways.

She takes the mike on stage of Kisan Sanyukt Morcha at Singhu Border, ‘Main New Zealand to aayin haan, Delhi airport to siddha ethe protest te, tuhade naal baithan.’ ‘I have come from New Zealand, from Delhi airport straight to protest site, to sit with you.’

He takes the stage of Kisan Majdoor Sangharsh Committee, ‘meri flight si London di December shuruat vich. Hun cancel ai. Jad tak aapan jit nahi jande.’ ‘I had flight for London in the beginning of December. Now it is cancelled. Till the time we don’t win this.’

The banner at a langar reads – ‘Midland Langar seva society.’

A poster on trolley reads – ‘Doaba Kisan March, with the support of NRI brothers.’

Everywhere in these miles of tractor -trolley townships, the runaways, having graduated to become affluent diaspora, show their presence.

They have joined the five boys of KisanEktaMorcha IT Cell in millions and spread the word to every corner of the world.

They have organized rallies in their cities, they have got the parliaments of the world to take notice, they have not allowed the state, the sold-out mainstream media and Joseph Goebbles of our times, the BJP IT cell, to let this movement fall in a voiceless vacuum.

The runaways have stood up and made themselves counted.






Ravi Choudhary of PTI was nearby as the lathis of the security personnel swung. Of the many images he clicked one will acquire a life of its...