New Delhi: Changing gears and possibly taking a cue from Gandhi’s civil disobedience movement, the leaders of the farmers have decided to observe a one-day hunger strike on Monday. Earlier, there was a proposal for an indefinite hunger strike from December 19.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, keen to score brownie points with his constituency in Punjab, said he will also be holding a one-day fast in solidarity.
In a welcome development, the Noida-Delhi Link Road, which remained obstructed since December 1 due to the agitation, reopened late on Saturday night as the farmers agreed to clear it for traffic. Late on Sunday evening, some protesters were still on one carriageway but they were expected to clear the road soon.
The farmers made the allowance following Union Minister Rajnath Singh’s intervention.
"Rajnath ji heard our demands and agreed to take the discussions forward and resolve the issues. We were convinced and decided to vacate the road. However, this does not mean that our protest is over," Satish Tomar, a senior IT Cell member of the BKU (Bhanu), told PTI over phone.
However, the Delhi-Jaipur highway was shut down on Sunday afternoon as farmers led a tractor march from Shahjahanpur on the Rajasthan-Haryana border.
Meanwhile, with farmers digging their heels for a protracted long-drawn struggle, many women have decided to join their husbands, sons and brothers, even if for a few days at a time.
Farming not just for 'alpha males'
For these women, who describe themselves as homemakers, farmworkers and protesters all rolled into one, any suggestion that farming requires physical labour and is a profession meant for alpha males is met with scorn. "The profession of farming is not defined by gender. Our fields don't produce crops differently if tended by women and men. Many male farmers are here protesting. Why should we sit at home?" asked 53-year-old Mandeep Kaur, a farmer from Ludhiana who refuses to be stereotyped into any one role.
As the protest entered the third week, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Sunday accused Opposition parties of running a tirade against the farm laws and asserted that these legislations "may cause difficulty to some in the short term" but will be beneficial to farmers in the long run.
Hitting out at the Centre, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, in turn, said that the government has failed the nation and the farmers. "In a democracy, you can't bulldoze your way through,’’ he said.
'Pizza langar' defended
Farmers have meanwhile defended a 'pizza langar' that was organised to keep up the spirits of the protestors. Responding to criticism that this was no picnic, a young student protestor said it was intended to change the public’s perception about farmers. He also asserted that no one has the right to comment on what a farmer should eat or wear. ‘‘A few people just cannot digest the fact that a farmer can have a good life – own a car, wear good clothes and have a pizza. The farmer has moved on from dhoti-kurta to jeans and T-shirt," a 25-year-old student said. "It's about time these people grew up," he pointed out.