December 2nd 2010: Kisan Swaraj Yatra tries to awaken Chandigarh citizens to the cause of Food, Farmers & Freedom
We spent the night in Gurudwara Bhattha Sahib in Ropar on the 1st of December after both the Solan and Nalagarh events had to be called off for various reasons. The bus had to undergo a repair and it took nearly five hours to get it done. After reaching the Gurudwara, we had a review meeting amongst the yatris after a long time. Apart from some logistics-related problems that were brought up, reflected in poor arrangements in the preceding states, there was a discussion on how there were some serious miscommunication issues that had affected the programmes in the recent past.
December 2nd began with a meeting with farmers and others in Ropar. Teachers, journalists and environmentalists were part of the programme here. There was a lot of time left for interaction with the participants. Some of the ensuing discussion centred around “who is to blame for the current state of affairs? Is it farmers or the government?”, with very strong views on all sides. It was agreed that the way forward will certainly need farmers’ full participation and shift to ecological farming even as the government has to create policies that will allow farmers to have a dignified life in farming. An 11-member committee was created at the district level to take forward grassroots work in setting up ecological farming models in the district. There was loud applause as soon as one farmer announced that he will shift to ecological farming from the coming season. Plans were made for exposure trips, trainings, more orientation meetings etc., to facilitate this.
We then moved to Chandigarh, to the Punjab Agriculture University. Here, the programme was in the StuC , as it is called (Students’ Centre). Here, we heard the good news that the transport department of the state had decided to waive the road taxes for the Yatra bus (which were quite steep n Punjab and we entered the state by paying one day’s charges of three thousand rupees). After meeting several students who were obviously actively concerned about farmers’ issues – drawn from human rights, social work, botany, environmental sciences etc, and having a quick cup of tea, we started gathering students scattered around the StuC. However, it was quite an effort, given that no public address system could be arranged. There was a fascinating play by four students. This drew in quite a crowd. After this, several yatris spoke about why they have taken out this yatra.
Rabbi Shergill, the famous singer, then joined this programme. He got onto a bench and started sharing his views, thoughts and information and tried to inspire the youngsters around to start thinking about rural India. He pointed out that Punjab was a dying civilization today and also discussed about the social issues staring at Punjabis. He lamented the fact that Punjabi youth think that cleaning at a fuel station in some obscure place in Europe is more of a respectable profession than working here, on the fertile lands of Punjab. He urged the youth of Punjab to rethink their future and save the land.
There was much confusion after this event when the police tried to prevent us from going to Sector 17 Plaza for the last event of the day. The Yatris immediately burst into new slogans “Kitna dum hai daman mein tere, dekh liya aur dekhenge; kitni jagah hai jail mein tere, dekh liya aur dekhenge”, “Badi sharm ki baat hai, police unke saath hai”, “Hamaare haath mein jhande hai, police ke haath mein dande hai” and so on.
We finally managed to do an impromptu-sort of meeting in the Plaza and drew in the crowds. There were many who were appreciative of the Kisan Swaraj Yatra effort and wished us good luck. Media representatives were also happy with the Yatra and the effort going into saving our Food, Farmers and Freedom.