Farm Ordinances were first tabled in the Union Cabinet on June 5, became Bills when introduced in Lok Sabha on September 14, and ultimately Acts after they were passed in Parliament and got the President’s approval on September 27. However, farmers had started raising objections from June 6 itself, a day after the ordinances were first tabled by the Centre, protesting in a phased manner from their rooftops and common places in their villages. RAAKHI JAGGA tracks the farmers’ movement from the very beginning:
How did it all start?
An immediate reaction to this move was the burning of effigies of the NDA in hundreds of villages of Punjab on June 6. However, the farm union leaders kept studying the ordinances for another week. On June 14, a detailed press statement was issued by the BKU (Ugrahan), strongly objecting to the ordinances, stating that these would “kill farming”. The statement also expressed their fears of agriculture landing in corporate hands.
From June 14 to 30, villagers used to stand on their rooftops for an hour, objecting to these ordinances while adhering to Covid-19 guidelines against social gatherings. It started with a few houses on June 14. Within a fortnight, it was being done in over 500 villages of Punjab. “We stood on rooftops with party flags and posters against farm ordinances from 9 to 10 am.
To our surprise, many kept on standing till noon as well. On the same day, in limited gatherings (less than 50 persons). we also went to the offices of sub-divisional magistrates and submitted memorandums to be sent to the Prime Minister,” said Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan, general secretary of BKU (Ugrahan).
This started happening in around 14-15 districts of Punjab. On July 13, power corporation employees did all-India protests against the Electricity Act, 2020, and farmers supported them. The next day, farmers protested against the state government’s directions against social gatherings amid a pandemic.
How and when did all the farm unions come together?
On July 20, effigies of the then SAD-BJP alliance were burnt in several villages, started by the 11 main farmer unions of the state including BKU (Ugrahan), BKU (Dakaunda), Kirti Kisan Union, Kul Hind Kisan Union etc. The next day, 11 farm unions joined hands to protest in coordination.
It was decided that all unions will protest separately, but follow a common programme. Hence, these unions organised a joint tractor March on July 27 — they travelled on tractors from their respective village and submitted memorandums with their MPs.
In Bathinda, this march was led by 17-year-old Baldeep Kaur, who drove the tractor herself to submit a memorandum to then Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal.
Over 25,000 tractors had come out on roads on a single day. Tractors became a symbol of the protest after that. On September 17, the AAP had organised a tractor march followed by Congress on September 20. SAD too held 2-3 tractor marches against the farm Bills. The BJP, meanwhile, organised a tractor march in favour of the Bills.
What happened after the tractor march of July 27?
The incident of 17-year-old Baldeep Kaur driving a tractor to submit a memorandum to Harsimrat spurred a lot of youth into joining the farmers’ movement. On July 29, 11 unions met again and decided to send yet another memorandum to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh.
In the first week of August, farmers started going visiting their respective DCs’ offices to submit these memorandums. Days later, meetings at the village-level had begun. By now, meetings regarding the farm Bills had started in Haryana as well. The All India Kisan Sangrash Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) had organised a number of meetings on this issue till August.
On August 19, all the 31 farmer unions of Punjab, including khet mazdoor (farm labourer) unions, decided to work in coordination. “This has happened for the first time as the cause was so big, hence we had to get together,” said Buta Singh Burjgill, BKU (Dakaunda) president. Not only this, all 31 unions decided to work in coordination with the AIKSCC so as to follow the all-India calls on farm ordinance issues with an aim to have maximum impact.
On August 25, BKU (Ugrahan) started doing nakabandi in villages, under which they displayed posters stating that SAD, BJP leaders are now allowed in villages. This lasted till August 29, but they continued their dharnas at the village entrance gates.
From September 7-10, a ‘Jail bharo Andolan’ was organised by all 31 farm unions and they sent memorandums to the PM yet again. This time, the gatherings were larger. Hence many of them were detained and booked in Mansa, Fazilka etc.
On September 9, there were protests against FIRs lodged against farmers for violation of section 144 Crpc, Covid guidelines etc. “Protests continued in Haryana. In August, similar protests began in 20 other states,” said Jagmohan Singh Patiala, member of AIKSCC.