BY VISHAL GULATI
Zira (Punjab), Dec 10 (IANS) The fathers are ‘fighting’ on the borders of the national capital for the past 15 days to mark their protest against new farm laws that they say will destroy their livelihoods, but their next generation of youngsters are at home.
One would have expected the youth to be out with ‘daring’ the government alongside their fathers. But it is an altogether different story in rural areas of Punjab, especially those where the militancy was at its peak at one point of time.
The reason: The seniors want the youngsters to reap the fruits of their efforts by protecting them in case of violence or use of force to disperse the defiant protesters.
“Scenes of police atrocities and human rights violations during the movement of Khalistan are still fresh in our minds,” remarked octogenarian Nachattar Kaur, a small farmer at Chuchak Wind village in Zira tehsil of Ferozepur district who opted for paddy and wheat cultivation.
“In our village, we have decided to deploy our elderly men and women in the Delhi Chalo agitation. Our young boys and girls are staying back to take care of their ancestors’ fields,” she told IANS.
The only reason, said Kaur wiser due to experience of the past, that they don’t want to lose their youth in this agitation.
Saddled with the responsibility of maintaining herself and her family, she said: “In our area, during militancy most of the youth either faced bullets of the security force or went missing. After three decades, we do not want to see the repeat of that traumatic period in our lifetime.”
Her grandson Karan Singh, 20, said like him many other young men and women in the village wanted to join the agitation but their parents do not allow them.
“Our elders are on the Delhi borders and we are here to take care of our wheat crop that was planted two weeks back,” Singh remarked.
There are scores of villages in Ferozepur district, once the hotbed of terrorism, along the Indo-Pakistan border where each family has decided to leave the youth in the fields.
These days the wheat crop requires irrigation and urea fertilizer once in 20 days.
However, the entire migrants from Bihar, largely involve in tendering fields, are accompanying the village elders during the agitation.
Vijay Khanna, a private doctor who was kidnapped by militants from his town Zira and made to pay lakhs in ransom, told IANS that a large number of elderly men and women from this town and nearby villages have been actively involved these days in the Delhi Chalo agitation.
“On an average, I was getting 25-30 patients daily. For last two week, their number has been reduced to two-three patients a day. The reason is that most of my patients, largely elders, have been stationed on Delhi borders,” he said.
Khanna, who has been practicing medicine in Zira, some 250 km from the state capital, for four decades said fear psychosis is evident from the fact that the villages have been left with youngsters only.
Zira and its nearby Makhu suffered a fate worse as most the terrorist leaders such as how Khalistan Liberation Force chief Nishan Singh Makhu belonged to this area.
Ferozepur is part of Punjab’s Malwa region that has seen the highest rates of farmer suicides owing to rising debt.
According to a 2017 study sponsored by the Indian Council of Social Science Research, 86 per cent of the farming households in Punjab are under debt.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has alarmed several times that the farm legislations will lead to unrest among the people in the border state, and to give Pakistan the opportunity to stoke fire.
“The anti-farmer move will spoil the ‘abo hawa’ (environment) of Punjab,” he has said. Delhi has to rethink on this issue, he stressed, adding that the legislations would undo the sacrifices made by Punjab and its farmers over 65 years to make India self-sufficient in food.
Citing Pakistan’s bid to disturb the state’s peace and stability through narco-terror and other anti-India acts, the Chief Minister has said “anti-farmer” legislations would lead to rise in the people’s anger.
In Punjab 70 per cent of the population are farmers with a majority of them tilled less than five acres of land.
The Chief Minister fears the majority would be worst hit with the new laws.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at email@example.com)