It is past midnight and a group of farmers are raising chants of ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan’ while a few volunteers are offering tea to other peasants at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan to beat the cold. Thousands of farmers from across the country converged Thursday at the historic Ramlila Ground after journeys that took some as long as 36 hours to complete to press for their demands, including debt relief and remunerative prices for their produce. They are spending the night at the ground before marching to Parliament on Friday.
Kartar Singh, 50, a sugarcane farmer from Sambal district, Uttar Pradesh, is anxious about the march tomorrow and cannot sleep, but he’s not complaining. “We have not come here to sleep. Farmers have converged in Delhi to remind the Union government that the party leading it had made promises of waiving off loans in its manifesto. And, its been four and a half years since they came to power,” he said, with an edge of anger in his voice.
Singh, a father of two sons is from Fatehpur Sarai village and, his younger son (22 years) has taken the field work while he is away. “My wife and children have told me, that I should fight and stay even for a week in Delhi, if needed,” he told PTI.
Inside the tents, farmers, both men and women, from all parts of India try to sleep in a chilly night, while many sat huddled together, discussing the next strategy and family issues. But, a group of volunteers, belonging to welfare organisation ‘Khudai Khidmatgar’ are trying to offer some comfort to these wearied farmers in the cold weather.
Shahjeb Jamal, a civil engineering student at Jamia Islamia and a volunteer with the group is lugging around a steel container and a hands out paper cups to farmers as they huddle around. “Our organisation’s philosophy as envisioned by its founder Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, is service and public harmony, and so we are here. We Stand its the farmers,” he said.
Jamal said Friday morning another batch of volunteers would be coming to offer tea and some breakfast to them. A group of 25-30 doctors also offered medical aid till about 11 pm, some of them took off from work to volunteer Rashid, a junior resident at AIIMS was among the doctor’s volunteers who attended to people till night.
“I took an off today from work, as I had to be here. They feed us, and we are not doing any favour by helping them, we are serving them,” he told PTI. Doctors also came from Aligarh Muslim university and Rohtak and Chandigarh and other Delhi hospitals to assist farmers, many of whom complained of body ache as they had travelled long distance.
“One person had fainted, so, after first aid, we sent him to LNJP Hospital,” said Mahtab Alam, a doctor at a Delhi government hospital. The historic ground, known for hosting big political events over the years, resonated with slogans like ‘Ayodhya nahi, karz maafi chahiye’ earlier in the day. Now, many are waiting for the crack of dawn, for start of a new day, filled with unwavering hope. PTI