“I don't know what all of this is about, I think it is something to do with Modi. I come here for the food. We don't have to worry about sleeping hungry anymore,” says 16-year-old Rekha (like most of the people quoted in this story, she prefers to use only her first name). She is a waste worker, who sorts items to recycle from garbage, and lives in Alipur in north Delhi, around 8 kilometres from the Singhu protest site.
She is at the blockade at Singhu, on the Haryana-Delhi border, where farmers have been protesting since November 26 against the three new farm laws passed by the government in September. The protests have drawn tens of thousands of people – farmers, supporters, those just curious, some plain hungry who eat to their heart’s content at the many langars run and managed by the farmers and gurudwaras. The people working at these community kitchens welcome everyone to partake in the meals.
Among them are many families living on nearby pavements and slum colonies, who mainly come to the protest ground for the langar – free meals – served throughout the day, from around 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Rice, dal, pakodas, laddoos, saag, makki ki roti, water, juice – all are available here. Volunteers are also giving out, for free, a wide range of utility items such as medicines, blankets, soaps, slippers, clothes, and more.
Among the volunteers is Harpreet Singh, a 23-year-old farmer from Ghuman Kalan village in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district, who is also studying for a BSc degree. “We believe that these laws are wrong," he says. "These lands were tilled and owned by our ancestors and now the government is trying to push us out. We do not support these laws. If we don't want to eat the roti, how can someone force us to eat it? These laws have to go.”