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For women farmers, its black flags instead of masks

VISHAL GULATI | May 25, 2021 01:24 PM

CHANDIGARH: Black flags and not masks are going viral in Punjab! Women protesters have been stitching thousands of black flags for a nationwide protest on May 26 organised by farmers' union Samyukta Kisan Morcha to mark six months of the agitation against the three controversial farm laws enacted by the Central government.

They say the coronavirus pandemic is not a threat to them, so they don't need masks. The real threat is from Centre's three farm laws as they favour corporate interests and will destroy their livelihoods.

When Jaswinder Kaur and her friends living in a remote village in Bathinda district started stitching black flags to protest against the contentious farm laws, little did they realise that other would catch the bug and the practice would turn viral.

Jaswinder Kaur concedes that she and her friends are not the pioneers, but also insist many like them believe the real danger is not from Covid-19 but the farm laws. For them, it's stitching of flags instead of the masks.

"For the last 10 months we are sitting here to lodge our protest against the three black agricultural laws. Every morning after finishing our household chores, we come at the protest site. We spend our day by taking to each other. I have not heard that anyone from us to get infected with COVID-19, " said octogenarian Nirmal Kaur, a protestor in Bathinda town.

She said stitched 120 black flags in the past two days that are to be distributed free for the May 26 rally on the Delhi borders.

Also the flags carry names of the respective farmer union with slogans like Kisan Ekta Zindabad.

The Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta-Ugrahan) on Tuesday said: "After months of protesting against anti-farm laws, determination is same as it was first day when we arrived at borders. The country and farmers have to battle not only with pandemic but the government. The farmers are risking their lives to save future and waiting for justice."

It added, "Women activists of its farm organization are making black flags to put on top of houses on May 26. A total of 1, 000 flags have sent to the Tikri border and preparing 800 for own villages".

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of over 40 farmer unions, has announced it will observe May 26 as 'black day' to mark six months of their protest at Delhi's borders against the farm laws.

Farmer leader Balbir Singh Rajewal has appealed to people to raise black flags at their houses, vehicles and shops on May 26 to ledge their protest.

Meanwhile, thousands of farmers belonging to Punjab and Haryana have set out for Delhi in cavalcades, some stretches for 20 km, for the May 26 rally.

Packed in hundreds of tractor-trailers, buses, cars and motorcycles loaded with eatables these farmers belong to various farm unions.

They will join the farmers camping at Tikri and Singhu borders of Delhi since November 26 last year.

As per police estimates, the number of protesters on the borders could be between 1, 50, 000 to 2, 00, 000 with sizeable number of youngsters and women.

The BKU (Ekta-Ugrahan) protesters are largely from Sangrur, Mansa, Bathinda and Barnala districts of Punjab.

Kisan Sangharsh Committee general secretary Sarwan Singh Pandher said farmers from Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Batala and Gurdaspur districts are heading towards Delhi.

Likewise, Haryana BKU President Gurnam Singh Charuni led the farmers' convoy of cars and bikes from Karnal and Panipat towns on Monday for the national capital.

The farmers are protesting against the farm laws as they feel that these laws would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price (MSP) system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporate entities.

Amid the journey, 'langar' or community kitchens have been put up by the special committees comprising women and elders to feed the scores of farmers.

The farmers have received thousands of litres of milk and fruits the villagers of Punjab and Haryana.

"We are carrying enough ration to support the protesters in Delhi for months, " said protester Ajmer Singh.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has urged the BKU (Ekta-Ugrahan) not to go ahead with their proposed sit-in protest, which could turn into a "super-spreader of the contagion".

He said his government was the first to pass amendment laws in the state Assembly to negate the farm laws.

His Haryana counterpart Manohar Lal Khattar appealed to the farmers to suspend the agitation as corona is spreading fast in villages.

He said it is time to stand together in the fight against Covid-19 and their struggle against government can continue once the virus is over.

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