“This year, the burning of papers carrying the anti-farmer laws in the bonfire marks our Lohri,” says Sukhdev Singh, who has come here from Punjab’s Sangrur district. Singh, in his mid-60s, has been a farmer for most of his life. Right now, he’s one amongst tens of thousands of protestors at Singhu, on the Haryana-Delhi border.
"This Lohri is, of course, different,” he adds. “Normally, we celebrated it in our homes with our relatives, with friends dropping by – and it was a merry time. This time, we are away from our farms and homes. But we are still together. We will not go back till the laws are repealed, even if it means staying here till the end of the tenure of the present government."
The popular Lohri festival is primarily celebrated in Punjab and some other parts of north India. It is usually observed on the night before Makar Sankranti (the last day of the month in the lunar calendar with the passing of the winter solstice) and marks the beginning of spring and longer days. People light bonfires, and offer jaggery, groundnuts, sesame seeds and other traditional food items to the sun, while praying for happiness, prosperity and a good harvest.
At the Singhu border this year, Lohri was celebrated on January 13 by lighting bonfires at several places along the protest route and burning papers with the three farm laws printed on them. The farmers raised slogans of solidarity, and sang and danced together as the papers vanished in the sacred fires lit beside their tractors.
The laws the farmers are protesting against are the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 ; the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act , 2020; and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 . The laws have also been criticised as affecting every Indian as they disable the right to legal recourse of all citizens, undermining Article 32 of the Constitution of India.