From Gandhi to Guevara, all present at farmers’ protest

Books & merchandise stalls at Ghazipur protest site

Society

March 15, 2021

/ By / New Delhi

From Gandhi to Guevara, all present at farmers’ protest

Farmers at Ghazipur border keep monotony and boredom at bay by adding new books to their reading list everyday

Protesting farmers, who have been holding their fort at the borders of the national capital for over 100 days now, have come up with innovative ideas to sustain the protest and keep boredom away. One such idea is to set up bookstalls and merchandise stalls at the protest site.

For 66-year-old Kuldeep Singh from Uttar Pradesh’s Balrampur, reading is a new found love. He spends most of his day reading newspapers, magazines or short stories of famous Hindi author Premchand, and when he feels demotivated – a biography of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, a freedom fighter who was hanged to death by the British in 1931.

Singh has been camping for over two months below the Ghazipur flyover, the site of farmers’ protest against new farm laws. He says that before he joined the protests, he could not recall when he had picked up a book to read. But now he is a regular reader and spends hours every day reading. The reason for reading regularly, he says, is that it keeps him calm. “It keeps my temper down and also inspires me to continue this agitation when I read about the likes of Bhagat Singh and other leaders who fought till their last breath,” he says.

Farmers can rent and buy books at a very nominal price at Ghazipur border

He further says that similar to him, there are many others who have picked up the habit of reading at the protest site. Many farmers who are unable to read, listen to Singh for their daily dose of news. “I go to the bookstall weekly and rent a few books. They also send us daily newspapers and I read it aloud to 10 others throughout the day. It becomes important especially when they shut down the internet,” he adds.

Book stores, filled with books ranging from topics like the ongoing farmers protest to the copy of the Indian constitution as well as on leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Che Guevara, an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, are amongst the most recent additions to the protest sites which have seen constant evolution over the past few months. Besides books, the sites have also seen tents selling farm union badges, banners and other merchandise.

While Singh and others keep the monotony and boredom at bay by adding new books to their reading list – day after day; the booksellers also say that it helps them collect some money which they use in sustaining the protest.

“We encourage people to read more and know more while they spend time protesting. It also attracts a lot of attention as well as makes sure that everyone is updated and aware about the recent developments in the country,” says Mamta, an Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) in a community health centre in Uttar Pradesh who sells books and magazines at the protest site.

Apart from books, the other stall that attracts the attention of not just the protestors but also the passers-by, is the tiny and decorated stall selling colourful batches, banners and leaflets of different farm unions and farmer leaders. Some merchandises also have ‘I love Tikait’ written on them- symbolising the popularity and attachment the farmers have for their leader Rakesh Tikait, National spokesperson of Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU).

A stall selling batches, banners and leaflets of different farm unions & leaders at protest site (MIG Photos/ Richa Nigam)

“We wanted to create a space to engage in protesting farmers in something productive. We also needed some regular income to sustain the protest while we sit here. So, along with a few friends, I got a few things customised and sell it here,” says Shalu Panwar, 22, a daughter of a farmer from Shamli district in Uttar Pradesh who has set up a small merchandise stall.

“We were very surprised by the response of the farmers, especially the young ones and even the people living nearby to our merchandise. We are able to sell almost 20 badges and a few banners every day. The smaller badges are for INR 5 and the big ones are for INR 10. The banners and other items cost anywhere around INR 20 to INR 50, depending on the size,” she explains.

Runny Tomar, a postgraduate student of gender studies at Jamia Millia Islamia, son of a farmer from Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh, brings newspapers and magazines to the protest site regularly and has also set up a bookstall. He says that no one can fight a war without having proper knowledge about the cause.

“Our farmers should also know about social revolutions that took place in other countries such as Russia and Cuba. They should also have proper knowledge about how the government and the media have been portraying their cause and need to have all related updates. That is why I bring them newspapers every day and even encourage them to read about great revolutions worldwide,” he explains.

Many farmers can be spotted visiting the bookstalls throughout the day. Some of them also purchase the books which are being offered at minimal prices – between INR 5 and INR 50. Gurvinder Singh, 54, a farmer from a village in the Amroha district, is currently reading a booklet titled ‘Anti-people, anti-farmers, three new farm laws’.

“Although I know about the three new laws, I want to read this book cover to cover so that no politician can mislead me and others like me by making false claims about the laws,” he adds.

It has been almost four months since farmers have occupied the borders of Delhi and have been protesting against the three contentious farm laws passed last September. While the government has absolutely stopped any talks and is unsympathetic towards their plight, the protesting farmers continue to agitate despite the increasing temperature and occasional rain, with books and resilience by their side.

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