It was a wonderful setting under the trees and a weak sun, in the Gurudwara campus of Bhotna village of Barnala district. Here, there are several organic farmers and the women are trying to bring back millet-based foods into their kitchens. They also try and grow vegetables without chemicals for household consumption.
We got down a couple of kilometers from the village and started a rally which soon became a long rally
through the village streets. The farmers of the village started joining us and several Punjabi slogans started coming out easily. The message of giving up chemicals in agriculture was the most-repeated one here, urging farmers to take up Nanak Kheti. As people started coming out of their homes and standing at tall gates of their courtyards, we started distributing handbills and requesting them all to come into the Gurudwara for the public meeting at 10 O’Clock.
Jagdeesh Papra and his team were singing thought-provoking songs by the time we reached the Gurudwara. Around 120 persons were already seated. As song after song rolled out beautifully, highlighting the plight of “Sone da desh”, about poison being harvested from the land of Punjab now, his message of hope to farmers who are feeling suicidal saying “suicides are not an answer – my farmer friend, take a firm grip over yourself”, telling the farmers that they are indeed warriors, fighting various adversities and feeding the world, the mood got built with messages of the Kisan Swaraj Yatra…. When this team provided support to Ramesh of Andhra Pradesh for his song on how our rulers are mortgaging our country, it truly felt like a pan-Indian yatra.
Pankaj Bhushan gave his usual rousing speech explaining to the gathering all about the Yatra, its objectives and what its demands are. Soon, Mr Balwant Singh Ramuwalia of Lok Bhalai Party (earlier with Akali Dal and formerly a Union Minister) came and Kavitha Kuruganti got to present various facts about the impossibility of the “displacement dream” that our policy makers have for farmers in the country, about Monsanto, about American agriculture, about the plight of farmers in the country today. She urged the farmers to understand the slavery involved in giving up our own seed and agro-diversity and pointed out that the loss of our food sovereignty would be through rural India, unlike during the British rule where urban India walked into slavery while rural India and its adivasi belts put up stiff resistance.
Mr Ramuwalia gave vociferous support to the causes being espoused by the Yatra and congratulated the
more-than-200-persons who had traveled in the Kisan Swaraj Yatra so far to pick up the cause of Food,
Farmers & Freedom. He said he was a personal witness to how the highest offices in the country were
being used to ‘sell away’ the country to others and how our nation’s interests were being sacrificed. He
gave his best wishes to the Yatra organizers and wished them success.
The Punjab President of the Freedom Fighters’ Union spoke about the need to save our sovereignty.
After a multi-course meal in the Gurudwara Sahib’s langar, we left for our next meeting in Jalal village. There were people waiting to welcome us in different locations along the main road including Bajakhana. Surupas were put around the Yatris with much respect and affection to the sounds of “Jo Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal”. Many fruits, much tea and several kinds of sweets were the order of the day.
The last meeting was in Jaitu in Faridkot district. Here, under the able compereship of Harmail Singh ‘Preet’ and in the presence of Sant Rishiram Baba and Sant Krishnanand Baba, the Yatris shared their messages. There were several rounds of felicitations including of around 13 farmers who have taken up organic/natural farming in Punjab.
The meeting, towards the end, had Sardar Sukhdev Singh Badal participating. He used to be the Minister
for Agriculture in the state government earlier. Many sharp questions were posed to him about the environmental health issues in the state, about the state of indebtedness of Punjabi farmers, about depletion and contamination of water, about soil degradation etc.
However, bypassing all the questions asked to him, he talked only about the wrongs of the Union government and how there is not appropriate price support, especially for pulses etc.
We ended up spending the night in the Gurudwara Sahib in Goniyana, which holds the rich traditions of service inherited from Bhai Kanhaiya.