Rain, heavy barricading play spoiler at Singhu border protest site

·3-min read

New Delhi, Feb 4 (PTI) Some put the blame on the rain gods while others cried foul over the sturdy barriers put up by the administration as the usually vibrant and upbeat Singhu border witnessed a rare quiet and uneventful day on Thursday.

The Delhi-Haryana highway, the epicentre of the ongoing farmers' agitation, looked like a pale shadow of its former self after intermittent showers restricted many protesting farmers to the shelter of their tents and trolleys.

The streets, muddy and waterlogged due to the rain, were visibly less crowded. Queues for popular langars -- serving Punjab's favourite 'Makki Ki Roti and Sarson Ka Saag' and quick-to-make pizzas -- moved smoothly without any routine pushing and shoving.

Even the usual presence of tractors on the roads, playing rustic farmer songs in full volume, was thin.

'Yes, it has been a relatively quiet day so far. We have been camping here for over two months now, it is natural to have some quiet days. This is a peaceful protest, why expect a spectacle?' asked Ajit Bhullar from Haryana's Kaithal district.

Another protestor, Navneet Dhillon from Punjab's Sangrur district, urged the media not to read much from the hiatus saying everyday activities have taken a hit due to the rain in the past as well.

'We saw this last month also when it rained for 2-3 days on the trot. We shouldn't construe anything else from this. The movement is only becoming bigger by every passing day,' said the 28-year-old.

But not everyone agreed with Dhillon, especially the vendors in the vicinity, who claimed that presence of multiple barricades and living under such tight security has taken a toll on the protesting farmers.

Aftab Alam, 31, who had to to shift his cart from the main road to the inner lanes of the protest site, said 'worry-induced wrinkles' were visible on the faces of the farmers.

'Earlier, even if things were not going in their favour, they always came across as a happy lot. Their energy was infectious. But from the past some days, I have noticed a change in their attitude,' said Alam, who has a garment cart at the site for the last one month.

'Now, they look worried. I guess it is because of high-security and the restrictions imposed by the security forces,' he said.

The drop in the number of security personnel, including the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) and Rapid Action Force (RAF), was also evident at the site on Thursday.

However, the latest addition to the security apparatus -- a sound system which was belting out one Bollywood patriotic number after another -- successfully overpowered the speakers blaring the fiery speeches of leaders of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangarsh Committee (KMSC) and the Sanyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM).

Another vendor, who sells socks at the protest site, complained about the loss in business that had sprung up after the protest started in November.

'Last month I was selling 100-150 pairs (of socks) a day. Now it has come down to 15-20,' said 41-year-old Ajit Singh.

Some also said the meteoric rise of Ghazipur in the popularity charts was the reason behind Singhu border going quiet and attracting less footfalls.

'Everyone -- media, farmers and common people -- is talking about Ghazipur these days. What attracts eye-balls, ends up attracting footfalls as well. It proved true for Singhu earlier, now it's Ghazipur's turn,' said a 35-year-old on the condition of anonymity.

Ghazipur came into the spotlight after BKU leader Rakesh Tikait's emotional appeal on January 28 over the dim situation of the ongoing farmers' agitation touched an emotional chord with people in villages. It galvanised farmers from Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Rajasthan to flock to the Delhi-UP border site. PTI MG RDM RDM