100 days and 248 deaths later, Indian farmers remain determined
For nearly two months, Prem Singh, 65, followed a ritual he had unwittingly slipped into.
He left his village in northern India’s Haryana state on December 1, 2020, to join tens of thousands of Indian farmers staging sit-ins along the borders of the national capital to demand the repeal of agricultural laws passed in September last year.
While camping at the protest site in Singhu – located along the Delhi-Haryana border – Prem ensured he called his son Sandeep, 34, back in the village every morning.
“He did not have a phone of his own,” Sandeep says, sitting in his dimly-lit room in the village of Manpura in Haryana’s Karnal district, 260km (161 miles) away from Singhu.
“But he would use somebody else’s mobile to check on us. I expected his call at a certain time every day. It had almost become a ritual.”
That ritual came to an abrupt end on January 26.
Crammed on a tractor at Singhu with several others, Prem, at around six in the evening, collapsed off the vehicle. He never made it back.
“I was with him at that time,” says Joginder Singh, 36, a resident of Manpura.
“We paid our respects to him at the protest site and took his body to the village for the funeral. He became one of the many martyrs that have laid their lives for the cause of the farmers.”
Ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government pushed through three farm laws using the governing Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) majority in Parliament, farmer unions, mainly from India’s grain bowl states of Punjab and Haryana, have erupted in anger.
Since November 26, tens of thousands of farmers have camped at three different locations around the capital, demanding the government withdraw the laws they say put them at the mercy of private companies and destroy their livelihoods.
As the protest enters its 100th day on Friday, at least 248 farmers have died at the borders outside New Delhi, according to the data collected by Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), or United Farmers’ Front.