One More Thing
At around 10 AM, the announcements made rounds at the Barnala grain market. The volunteers were being addressed. There were arrangements for snacks for the volunteers on one side while those who fed themselves boarded the trolleys and jeeps and drove towards their assigned locations. The police personnel were standing under the tree shades as the clouds grazed by the sun in the sky.
Jhanda Singh Jethuke and Harinder Bindu were looking after the arrangements since the morning. Volunteers tested the sound system and reported that the sound was echoing and was not clear at various places. Jethuke took to the stage and started to address the issue. There were mostly police in the audience, but the sound was to be tested at the same pitch the leaders would be using for the speeches throughout the day. “Wheat and rice will be sold at the rate of gold. The government is also indulging in propaganda around the three farm laws. They are telling the rural dalit laborers that the plan is to take the land from the farmers and distribute it among them,” he started to speak. He appealed to the sound system company to fine tune the system so that the voice reached each and every ear without any noise.
Jethuke would give the same lecture again, four hours later, when the masses would show up in the packed trolleys, school buses, and trucks. He spoke again when the people raised yellow, green and red flags and their rightful voices against the three farm laws and against the new labor codes. The idea behind the grand rally was to make the united farmer-laborer voice revergrate in every corner of the world. More than a hundred thousand people listened to the speakers intently. The laborer and farmer flags flew free in the open air.
In the past few weeks, the unity of the morcha and the integrity of the union leaders have been questioned. Joginder Singh Ugrahan, state president of Bharti Kisan Union Ekta Ugrahan, which is not a part of morcha but is aligned with its focus and program, made it clear at another rally in Chandigarh on February 20 that the morcha leaders were not running away from their responsibilities. He explicitly elaborated on the way morcha was taking a lead on the legal matters to free the detained protesters from the Delhi jails. It was Ugrahan who gave a call for the Barnala grand rally. Kulwant Singh Sandhu, Ruldu Singh Mansa and Balbir Singh Rajewal were some of the prominent leaders who appeared at the Barnala rally. Their presence was a decent answer to the spinned narratives churned out by both the national and state media.
This decency was an extension of the mid-morning stage address given to an empty audience space. “People are not walls; they will sit. The sound will echo regardless. I request the sound managers to not postpone the matter to when the people will arrive to listen to the leaders. We need to find a solution now,” Jethuke said. There was a plinth behind the stage which was chained and locked to a pillar. The lock had a sign of the Tempoo Union on it. Jethuke appealed to the speakers that the owners must remove the plinth. “People are going to sit on it and feel comfortable. It won’t be possible then to claim the plinth.” However, no one showed up for about ten minutes. The lock had to be broken. It was announced that the union would pay for the broken lock. By this time, the first caravans of people started to arrive. By noon, the growers of the grains occupied every inch of the grain market. People were listening to the uncorrupted, unbroken voices about their democratic and economic rights.
The one who ties death to his shoulders
And sprays the fields
The one who tries to reach a decent earning
And is crucified
But he is known for
Hunger and dejection
This Laalo of Nanak is called
A mazdoor (laborer)
He is the rightful owner of the butter and cream
But he eats dry grain
He picks the grain kernels
And breathes the husk
Gross inequality is considered
A norm here
This Laalo of Nanak is called
The rally began with the poetry performance by the Rasoolpur Kavishri Jatha.
(photo credits: Nav Rahi)