Friday, February 16, 2024


Sukhdev Singh is milking a buffalo when I call him. We are speaking after a long gap. His voice carries the same cheerful energy I remember. The temporary fame that the iconic Singhu border photo from November 2020 brought his way is long forgotten (just like the promises Govt of India made to get them to vacate the borders a year later). Life and its realities remain.

Will he be joining the morcha this time? I ask.

‘Mann ta bahut hai.’ He really wants to.

His support structure, his wife, suffered a paralysis stroke while he was at Singhu border during 2020-2021 protests. She has never recovered. His daughters are married and the only son, like most of Punjabi youth, seven seas away. He sent him away to save him from ‘mahaul.’ His wife is currently in the care of one daughter. He is alone at home taking care of his cattle and the few acres of land.

Who will manage home and work?

‘Dekheya jayoo.’ We will see.

I joke that maybe he should wait a few days and let some other bodies take the load this time.

Bodies. Isn’t that what the protestors are to the system? The system which is busy doing bandobast to ensure the farmers can’t reach the capital? Bodies to be stopped. If required bodies to be tear-gassed. Bodies to be target practice of water cannons. Bodies to be lathi charged. Some bodies, if not all, to be picked and thrown into the police buses and taken to the stadiums being converted to temporary jails. Bodies to be subdued. Bodies which should comply with diktats. Bodies without life and spark of their own. And in some cases, a dead body or two. Last time it was 730. 730 dead bodies.

A concerned lawyer has filed a petition before the Punjab and Haryana High Court “challenging the ‘obstructive actions’ of the Central and State governments, including sealing of border between Haryana and Punjab in order to ‘prevent the farmers from exercising their constitutional right to assembly and protest peacefully’."

Just below the news of this petition on page I see this headline - 'Animals Have Right To Dignity, Bodily Integrity': Punjab & Haryana High Court Refuses To Quash FIR For Killing Buffaloes By Rash Driving. The court says, "All the animals have honour and dignity. Every specy has an inherent right to live and is required to be protected by law. The rights and privacy of animals are to be respected and protected from unlawful attacks..."

The high court now has a chance to balance two animal species, the farmer and his buffalo, on the scales of justice.

The farmer union Sukhdev Singh is part of has not joined the Delhi Chalo march yet. For now, they have other protests planned in coming days. Depending upon how the events unfold in next day or two – decisions will be taken.

But he is upbeat about the march and is eager to join. To be that body. Once again.

In the meantime, the system is ready.

The bodies are coming.

Many cameras await that moment when the batons of the system will meet the bodies. Once again.  

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Sukhdev Singh is milking a buffalo when I call him. We are speaking after a long gap. His voice carries the same cheerful energy I remember....