On the occasion of Baisakhi and 102 years of the Jalianwala Bagh massacre, protesting farmers at Tikri border marked the occasion by organising various sports competitions & by remembering the martyrs.
Beside the dusty road at Pakoda Chowk crossing, Bahadurgarh, near Tikri border, a gaggle of middle-aged men are often seen preparing for a match to be held tonight . About 15-20 young men and teenagers are busy arranging chairs, music system and preparing the mud ground for the sports activities. Some others are often seen decorating tents and tractors with flowers and trinkets. it’s not a standard day for the thousands of farmers protesting at the Tikri border today. it’s the occasion of the annual Baisakhi festival, the spring harvest festival, celebrated with great enthusiasm in Punjab and northern parts of India.
“Today may be a big day . Today is our day. we’ve decided to celebrate Baisakhi here just the way we wont to celebrate it in our villages. we’ll play games, watch films and celebrate it with enthusiasm. i will be able to participate in rassa-kheench (tug of war). it’s been years but i’m sure I can still perform. I even have thought of who all are going to be in my team,” says Harwinder Singh, a 65-year-old farmer from Sangrur district in Punjab. Singh has been sitting at the Tikri border for the last four months.
Singh, along side six other farmers of his age, talks about activities as a part of the Baisakhi Mela (fair) at the Tikri border.
The Five Rivers Heart Association, together with Punjab Wrestling Association, is organising a sports event to celebrate Baisakhi with farmers, at the Tikri border. Gatka (Sikh martial arts), cricket, wrestling (mud), kabbadi (an Indian team sport), bodybuilding, racing , athletics, turban tying competition, volleyball and various games are going to be held.
As one moves ahead and walks along the road of tractors, tents and langar camps at the border, the overwhelming aroma of fritters, kheer (a sort of dessert), jalebis (a deep fried sweet) fills the atmosphere. Long queues of men, women and youngsters , protesting farmers, also because the locals, wait with glasses and plates in their hands for sweets, savouries and cold drinks.
“Langar is additionally serving special food today like frozen dessert and jalebi. Baisakhi may be a farmers’ festival and farmers are those who feed the planet . that’s why langar is hospitable all and on this big day , all passers-by and everybody who comes here should have a touch little bit of sweet. it’s pious,” explains Baldev Singh, a 45-year-old farmer from Kamalpura village in Punjab.
When asked about the extreme summers, the afternoon’s scorching sun and therefore the condition, Singh explains that the farmers are wont to living and dealing within the fields even during extreme weathers. “We aren’t bothered. We are wont to extreme weather and that we are ready to manage here too. we’ve put fans and coolers for older people and youngsters , but most folks don’t need it. we’ll manage to remain put,” he says.
Just a couple of steps from the langar service camp, one can hear some speeches, slogans and patriotic songs being sung on the most stage area, about 500 metres from the most road. About 600 farmers, all dressed up in yellow and saffron attires, especially on the occasion of Baisakhi, sit under an outsized tent ahead of the stage, on which, various local performers, singers also as farmers themselves sing and deliver speeches. Women farmers of all ages, many of them above the age of 70, occupy the front rows, followed by the lads .
The huge, enthusiastic crowd cheers and applauds the performers on stage as they play songs linked to Baisakhi also as remember the martyrs of the Jallianwala Bagh incident, which happened on April 13, 1919, in Amritsar.
“This year marks 102 years of the Jallianwala Bagh incident and that we remember the martyrs through songs here. aside from them, over 300 farmers have also lost their lives during the protest at different borders of Delhi. We also consider them martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the cause and remember them with equal respect,” says Sukhbir Singh, a 66-year-old farmer from Ludhiana, Punjab who was busy preparing and practising the poetry he wrote and is next in line to perform.
Three others farmers also wait behind the stage to perform. one among them, a 78-years-old Gudiya Devi, with a walking stick in her hand, says that she is going to perform on stage after almost 50 years. She has been with the protestors at the Tikri border for over six months and says she remains hopeful of the Modi government repealing the three farm laws.
“There are numerous people here. I don’t know what others say but I even have only witnessed the amount of protesters increasing here. we’ve survived the bitter cold and that we will manage to survive this summer too. we’ll return only the farm laws are repealed and that i am sure i will be able to see that taking place during this life,” she says.