Roundabout: The song of the road to Delhi plays on
Sung loud and clear in this winter season in Punjab are songs of protest, resistance and also celebration. The singing star of the farmers’ protest is 1984-born Kanwar Grewal, born in a Bathinda village and Punjabi University (Patiala), alumnus, who gained recognition as a Sufi singer. His songs have set the beat for the agitation with lyrics sung with conviction from the stage on Delhi’s Singhu border. His two songs which have taken the shape of anthems of the protest are: Faslan da faisla kissan karange (The decision on the harvest will be done by the farmers) and Pecha pai gaya Centre naal (The fight is with the centre). The latter takes its lyrics from the imagery of kite-flying and calls out to the farmers to fill trolleys and move on for the Centre has to be confronted.
By Nirupama Dutt
The support of the people coming to the protesting farmers on the roads leading to Delhi from the Punjab and Haryana borders is growing phenomenally every passing day with more people joining in with enthusiasm and bravado. Perhaps such enthusiasm has not been seen since the times of the struggle for freedom which brought Independence to the country in 1947 but not without Partition and unprecedented migration in world history for the regions of Punjab and Bengal.
It is interesting to note how the substance of the songs has changed with the wave of dissent that has swept through the bread basket of the country. Punjabi songs had fallen into stereotypes over the past decades glorifying violence, alcohol, and gender bias in which the Punjabi woman was reduced to nothing but a sex symbol. This wave of dissent seems to have shaken the people from shedding decadence and moving to struggle. Significantly, the struggle is not just of the dominant macho landed class of the Jats, but it is being supported by the Dalits and several sections of the Punjabi Hindus too. The protest which is taking the shape of a movement has with it the Left-wing groups which were largely at odds with the militancy movement with Khalistan as its goal. Gender roles too have changed as one finds women at the helm of affairs playing leadership roles. The intellectual elite cutting across regions too are with the new wave and so also people from the fields of arts and literature.
Writer-journalist and Dalit activist Des Raj Kali, who often rides out on his motorcycle to the protest sites, says that this struggle of the farmers has filled many of the fissures that existed in Punjabi society. “In Punjab today, the farm labour, Dalits, intellectuals and women have come forward to join the peaceful protest started by the farmers,” he adds To a great extent the Dalits have supported the struggle disenchanted by the dishonour shown to the Constitution of India, framed by none other than Dr BR Ambedkar, the saviour of the downtrodden victims of caste prejudice. “At one of the rallies, I saw something that came as a surprise. A Jat was sitting there with a book by Ambedkar on his lap.”
The other very noticeable earnest role is that of the youth in the protest. The slogans say it all. One finds banners and posters stating clearly: “We are farmers not terrorists”. Poet Sushil Dusanjh, an active executive member and former general secretary of the Kendri Punjabi Lekhak Sabha (the central literary cadre of the Communist Party of India with branches all through Punjab), says:”The young are making a clean break with the violent communal past for it brought no good to Punjab. This is a wave that is carrying with it our progressive poets, artists and performers. It is indeed a protest with poetry and not guns.”Amen!
Sushil is penning poetry that describes the lot of the farmers and their struggle using idioms from Punjabi folk songs: Jat khet vich kharha puchhe rab nu, Dahne mere kaun lai gaya, Jinde meriye! (Standing in the fields the farmer asks, Who has robbed me of my grain, O’ my love!).
The other slogan that the protest has brought us which goes straight to the heart is the condemnation of drugs contrary to the stereotyping of Punjabi youths as cocaine addicts in a Bollywood film Udta Punjab. The poster cries out: “Udhta Punjab Nahi, Padhta Punjab,” indicating that ours is not a stoned Punjab but a literate Punjab. All protest sites have libraries aplenty and the young are actually reading books as they camp there, artists are doing on-the-spot paintings and tractor trolleys have been put together to create a makeshift cinema hall to screen inspirational films in Trolley Talkies.
Women have been hailing the protest and visiting the borders piled in jeeps and cars. Heartening to know that some even deserted friends and families in groups to be with the protestors on New Year Eve and raise the toast of hot ginger tea in cold and foggy weather. Among them was Chandigarh’s much-admired activist-psychiatrist Simmi Waraich, who drove her women friends all the way to Singhu on Thursday.
What will be the course of this protest well begun? City’s author-activist Ranjit Powar, another one doing rounds of protest sites with women friends, says: “Whatever be the outcome of the farmers’ agitation, it will leave a lasting impact on the minds of the people, even those who have just brushed past it is an episode of solidarity, self-discipline, women power, youth energy and sincerity”.
Courtesy : HT