Sargam Toor, New Delhi
Read in GurmukhiOn January 26, 2021, my friend and I planned to take part in the Tractor March. Being associated with the farmers' movement, we were thrilled to be a part of the historic march. We both live in Delhi, and we decided to take Uber. I picked up my friend on the way to Tikri. As the main roads were blocked that day, Uber navigation showed a tedious route through Delhi villages. We were stopped by Delhi police as the route to Najafgarh road was barricaded. After wandering around nearby villages with a hope to hit the Najafgarh road but being stopped by barricades instead,, we finally gave up around 11am and started walking towards Nangloi, still 10 kilometres ahead. We were crossing the village of Baprola on the Nangloi-Najafgarh road, which was on the route of the tractor march. The march hadn’t reached that village yet. We saw locals gathered on sides of the road eagerly waiting to greet the farmers - with Tirangas hurling in the sky, marigold laden roads and langars (community kitchens). We were approached by a woman named Sangeeta, who expressed her wish to join the protest at Tikri border, but couldn’t because of personal circumstances. She said that she is contributing to the cause by organising a tea-biscuit langar for the tractor march, which was scheduled to pass by her shop in another hour or so. We walked another 3 km and would have passed by 200 policemen, 2000 Delhiites, 20000 ball flowers and then we met another woman. "Modi saved your country, daughter, he put China to sleep, ended corruption, you should go back," she said. "We didn't come this far to back-track." With that we moved on. Nangloi junction was still seven kms away. We somehow managed to take lift from a motorcycle, who dropped us 2 km short of Nangloi junction. The parade was approaching us fast. We saw the early part of the parade that started from Tikri. Oh! The enthusiasm, the passion, the determination. You have to be there to experience this explosive collective energy that filled the atmosphere that day. It felt something similar to the play written by Asghar Wajahat "Whoever did not see Lahore, was not born".
Seeing the seemingly endless parade, we reached the Nangloi turn, where at least 5,000 people were present within a radius of 100 meters. In front of us were incoming tractors from Tikri, who had a choice of two routes - a straight road to central Delhi and a right turn to the Nagafgarh Road, the route agreed with Delhi Police. One out of every 50 tractors was heading straight to Delhi. Seeing that one outlier once in a while, I had a strange fear of the outlier becoming the norm. Volunteers of Kisan Morcha were on the ground instructing the tractors to turn right through loudspeakers and at times would rally up in front of the outlier tractors and force them to make a right.
Well, the situation escalated quickly when the policemen who were standing idle till on top of buses till then, decided to get on tear gas tankers. Policemen doubled in numbers almost instantly. Meanwhile, we went searching for some food into a narrow lane called the bhutiya gali (ghostly lane). Just as we paid for the delicious idli, a stampede broke out. A foul odor spread, which meant that the police had opened fire with tear gas. It was unclear at the time why the tear gas shells were falling on the right side. After that, every five minutes a tear gas shell was fired, one of them landed on a local’s roof where the whole family was gathered to watch the tractor parade.
By now it was half past two and the news of the Nishan Sahib flag being hurled at Red Fort was spreading. An elderly man from Bathinda, who looked very disappointed, said, "This incident will hurt the movement badly. The movement, which has been growing for the last six months, should not be disrupted by a few bad elements."
I was equally disappointed but couldn’t access news on phone as the internet in that area was shut down by that time. I had to wait for the right news till I reach back home. On the way back we first took a lift from the tractor who belonged to the Sangrur district in Punjab, same as my native. I asked them that why did they not turn the tractor towards Delhi Outer Ring Road like a few others, and the answer I got was “because we are affiliated with Kisan Jathebandi (farmers union), our cause is to peacefully get the new black farm laws repealed, and our jathebandi leadership has strict instructions to walk on the right path. ”
I reached home around 10pm and saw a storm of hashtags like #DelhiPoliceLathBajao on Twitter, saw the Sikhi flag get the Khalistani tag, saw Delhi police injured, saw farmers injured and going missing, saw journalists' cameras smashed, but what was not seen on the internet was the rising revolution in form of an endless tractor and foot march on the Nangloi Najafgarh road that I and millions other saw that day.