FOUR LITTLE girls were reciting the lines of ‘Zafarnama’ on a stage set up close to the railway tracks. A large group of women sitting on the tracks listens with rapt attention, and raises anti-Centre slogans. This was the scene at Kala Bakra, located around 15 km from Jalandhar, where children as young as 8 year and women as old as 80 gathered Thursday on the Jammu-Jalandhar railway track and sat till 4 pm, obliging the ‘rail roko’ call of Sanyukat Kisan Morcha (SKM).
On the same Jammu-Jalandhar track, a group of 25 girl students — many of them orphans and belonging to extremely economically backward families — of Guru Nanak Khalsa College, which bears all the expenses of their education, Lohara Char-ke in Jalandhar, also participated, sitting on the tracks right till the end of protest. They said they had come to support the “battle for truth”.
At Jalandhar railway station, where an Ahmedabad-Jammu train was stopped, the passengers did not mind. A large group of women from Gujarat even alighted and started performing ‘Garba’ on the platform in support of farmers, much to everyone’s enjoyment. They told mediapersons present there that they have no farming background but support farmers and do not mind waiting a few hours for farmers who have been on the roads for the past three months.
Such were the scenes during the ‘rail roko’ protest Thursday in Punjab. In various parts of Doaba region, a large number of women were seen sitting on tracks. Women also participated in nearly two dozen protest sites across the state.
Not only women of all age groups but from all walks of life took part — labourers, NREGA workers, farmers, office-goers were the part of the protest.
At Kala Bakra, Karamdeep Kaur (11), Harneet kaur (13), Sukhmanpreet (13), and Navneet (8), who were reading the ‘Zafarnama’, were asked why they were doing so at a protest site. Karamdeep was quick to explain: “Zafarnama is a letter written by Guru Gobind Singhji (10th Sikh Master) to Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb after the battle of Chamkaur in 1705, reminding him about his excesses as a leader. By reading it here, we are also reminding our leaders of the present days, about their inhumane approach towards the farmers’ protest.”
All the four girls had joined ‘rail roko’ after appearing for their English exam on Thursday and remained on the tracks till 4 pm. On Friday, they will sit for their math exam.
“If farmers are destroyed, everything will be destroyed in our society. We all have to save them,” said Simrajit Kaur, a class IX student sitting on the Delhi-Amritsar track near Jalandhar Cantt. Siramjit is the daughter of a shopkeeper running a general store of groceries. According to her, when farming will be destroyed by the three laws, her father will also get affected because “one day big businessmen will snatch his shop as well by opening big retail centres”.
A woman protester said: “We constitute half of the population of this country and now the time has come that we bear the burden and responsibilities in equal manner in every sphere of life whether it is a protest or any field.”
“It is not only a battle of farmers now but of every consumer in society because tomorrow when big people do farming, how will small people like us, who are dependent on the farmers, survive?” asked Manjit Kaur (75), a farm labourer of Ispur village who was also part of the protest.
Kamaljit Kaur (38) of the same village, said: “I have come to participate because now we all have to join hands to support farmers when the government has turned a blind eye towards their protest. When government realises that not only farmers but common people are also part of this move, then surely it will act because it cannot afford to lose it vote bank among the general public.”
Sarpanch of Ispur village, Rajinder Singh Daliwal, said that the entire village was on the tracks Thursday, under the banner of Doaba Kisan Sangharsh Committee.
Mamta Rani, who was sitting on the tracks at Sunam, said meetings are being organised in the villages to mobilise women.
Kulbir Kaur, principal of Guru Nanak Khalsa College, said that their students read the news daily and whenever they notice injustice anywhere, they ask permission to participate in support of the affected.
Jagmohan Singh, general secretary, Bharti Kisan Union (BKU) Dakaunda, said, “A couple of years ago when they had come for a mock Parliament against the anti-farmer policies, the number of women participants was in a few 100s but now they are outnumbering the male protesters at several places.”
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