By Dr. Harbani Kaur Malik-Chaudhry
Dr. Harbani Kaur Malik-Chaudhry is a Sr. Scientist at Teneobio, Inc. in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has been in Delhi, India for the past several weeks, volunteering at the protest sites and interviewing Kaur farmers. These are a few of her conversations. She interviews Jasbir Kaur Nat, Punjab Farmer Union Leader, Kuljit Kaur from Sangroor District, and several Kaurs from the Karnal Bypass.
The video clips were made in mid-January of 2021 and have been used with her permission. Rough translations were provided by Dr. Mohan Singh Dhariwal.
Harbani Kaur, a sevadar and spectator at Singhu and Tikri Border
On Dec 19th 2020, I walked for the first time on the streets of Singhu Border. Right after the rows and layers of concrete barricades and heavy deployment of police forces, there were our laadli fauj (dear army), the Nihangs and their horses, as the first layer of defense between the farmers and government. My dad, my younger brother, and I walked down the heavily crowded streets, and I see tractors after tractors, trollies after trollies. Every tractor-trolly has been converted into a temporary home, with a makeshift shed and “backyard/kitchen”. The tractors and trollies are adorned with posters of various slogans like, “We are farmers and not terrorists” and “Take back the black farm laws”, along with pictures of Shaheed Bhagat Singh.
Diversity & Unity
I see everyone: kids, youngsters, middle-age, old-age, men, women, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Haryanvee, Punjabi, UPians, Delhiites; all shapes and sizes. All have come together for one purpose: to fight back on the three farms laws. Groups of individuals walking down the streets and chanting their slogans with their posters. Everyone is protesting peacefully.
On top of everything, everyone is trying to do some kind of seva. You walk down these streets, and you will see different kinds of langar seva to feed the hungry, washing machine station seva to wash the dirty clothes of the protestors, sewing station seva, medical assistance seva, foot massaging seva, and oil massage seva for tired protestor, gym seva, cleaning crew seva sweeping the streets and installing dustbins on each trolley, shoe polish seva, and kisaan mall seva to provide every basic amenity from toothpaste to warm blankets to sanitary napkins for women. There’s also a kirtan trolley passing by doing kirtan seva, free library seva (Shaheed Bhagat Singh Library at the Tikri border, founded by 29 year old Navkiran Natt, 29, a dentist by profession and daughter of well-known left-wing activists) and mini-classroom seva.
We call this The Trolley Pind or The Trolley City. And we have our own printing press (Trolley Times) so we can have unbiased media coverage of the kisaan morcha. When you visit the Trolley Pind at the border of Delhi, you will feel a very strong and unique energy. At one corner, you will hear bibis (women) in the back preparing langar, singing Gurbani,, or doing naam simran. On the other corner, you will also hear bibis singing, “Raam raam hare hare”. You will find its resemblance very close to the Baegumpura city, which Guru Sahib refers to in Gurbani. Everyone is in unity. Everyone is in chardikala. Everyone is doing seva to help each other. Everyone sees the oneness in each other.
But one point which I want to reiterate is, the farmers are not having a picnic at the borders of Delhi. They are there because the government is neglecting their request to repeal the farm laws, which are detrimental to their livelihood. So to anyone who thinks the farmers are comfortable and have all the amenities, I urge you to spend a night in December or January in Delhi, sleep on the concrete streets on a thin, 1 inch foam mattress. Not a single farmer here wants to leave their family and the comforts of their homes to come live on the streets for fun. As of today (Jan 27th 2021), we have 170+ martyrs to this movement, and the government continues with its oppression.
It is very hard for me to put it in words. This all led me to talking to farmers at the protest site and recording their conversations and sharing it with you all.
Jasbir Kaur Nat, Punjab Farmer Union Leader
Punjabi Youth Explore the Past & Envision the Future
Jasbir Kaur Nat Part 1
Since this struggle started, all sections of society have experienced an awareness – an awareness has come to light.
People want to read Sikh history, they want to know about the Akali Movement of the 1920s, they want to understand the whole of history. Whether it’s the Ghadar Movement, Chacah Ajit Singh’s “Pagri Sambhal” Movement, or Bhagat Singh and Kartar Singh Sarabha’s movement….all sections of society want to know about it. All of Sikh history is of great importance; there are many things we didn’t know and were not on our syllabuses that we are now learning. The current wave has started because of the agricultural laws but it won’t stop here.
All the youngsters have been asking for an employment act to be enacted. And if we can’t get employment, if the government can’t create jobs for us, then they should give us something we can live on. We should get at least some kind of livable, unemployment benefit. And that should be tied to our qualifications. But, so far the government hasn’t done anything about it.
Now, the youth is asking about all the things we used to talk about, like the WTO, IMF and previous treaties. When we explain them to them, they come up with new questions.
The farmers are saying, “We aren’t going to talk about politics.” But when the youth respond with, “The politician brought these laws in, and only through political maneuvering can you turn this around….We need to look at a new political paradigm. Otherwise, when this struggle finishes, we will be back to square one and the same parties will be in power. We need a political change in order to bring social change. Otherwise the same things will happen over and over.”
We think there will be a third major political party that will emerge out of this. The younger generation should absolutely enter politics. The future is dependent on them.
They are asking very pointed questions with inquisitive minds. They are exploring the past. They will bring new changes. We had gatherings in Punjab for two months and they brought up the same questions. They have to bring a new political force into play.
Even here at this gathering, the Kisan march, people ask political questions even the leaders say don’t get wrapped into politics.
The Only Female Farmer Union Leader
Jasbir Kaur Nat Part 2
Q: You’re the only female kisan (farmer) union leader here. Do you feel like there should be more females in the leadership?
Yes. Having more females in leadership position would bring a new perspective to problems.
On the Tikri border, I’m the only female leader.
I’ve never lived life as a “typical female”. Whenever there have been issues in the past, I’ve been the only female around, so it feels no different now.
After the Gujrat earthquake, I was the only female aid worker there. Before going there, I said, “There are no other females going.” and he said, “That shouldn’t stop you from going. Why does it matter if you’re the only one. You should go!” I never got any push back from my family.
Women in Leadership
This current struggle has brought more awareness within the females. Women are becoming more aware.
At first, they didn’t get many opportunities, but now, more are entering leadership roles. In the future, I believe there will be a large number of females in leadership.
I believe that in Panchayats (village governing bodies), other councils, and Parliament, 50% of the seats should be reserved for females. In some areas, like in Panchayats, this rule has already been established.
In many instances, when a woman becomes the Sarpanch (head of the Panchayat), her husband co-opts the title too. He will start calling himself, “Sarpanch.” I point to him and say, “You are not the Sarpanch! Your wife is!”
When this 50% of seats come into action, then women will raise questions at home and will want to have equal rights. The new generation is all educated, and with that education they have the desire to/take their rights and become leaders.
Heirs of History
Jasbir Kaur Nat Part 3
Q: I saw a photo of a woman curled up with a picture of Mata Gujari Kaur and the Shoteh Sahibzadeh. I haven’t stayed here at night, but is there that kind of energy here?
Yes. They take inspiration from Mata Gujari Kaur and the Shoteh Sahibzadeh being imprisoned in the cold tower. Here, we have all the amenities; we have food, firewood, and blankets. They had nothing. We get a lot of energy when we think of them. We are the heirs of that history. These are just minor things that we are facing compared to what they faced.
Kuljit Kaur from Sangroor District
I came here on my own. I have a large family in the village.
I have farmland back home. Banda Singh Bahadur gave us the land and now the government wants to take it from us. We are not going to let go.
I’ve been here 9 days.
I live with my brothers [the Singhs/the men] over there. I get all the langar, it’s been very nice. I haven’t had any problems.
God has given us everything. I’m in good health. From the house of Guru Ram Das, we have everything. We are the Khalsa. Guru Nanak gave us all of this.
Because of the bitch Modi Government, we are stuck on the road. And he’s not budging. We are all very peaceful. The government has infiltrated the site and has inserted people to cause trouble. But we are completely peaceful.Whether it takes a month, 6 months, or a year, we will keep rotating and coming.
We can’t work for someone else or under someone. We are land owners. We don’t want to be forced into servitude.
We will take our rights by putting our knee on their [the government’s] neck. It’s a bitch government. Just look at what they’re doing.
Kaurs of the Karnal Bypass
Kaurs of the Karnal Bypass
I’m here to do seva. I’m not a farmer. I just came this morning, then we will go back in the evening. We like it a lot. We came because we eat because of farmers. Where would we eat if we don’t side with them and support them? We live in the city, and our [metaphorical] brothers are farming.
We won’t turn back. The government will have to give in.