Earlier this week, we drove from the farm in rural Haryana back to Delhi, and following Ms Google’s advice, we came via the Singhu border.
I’m sure all my Indian readers will know this, but for the benefit of overseas readers who might not – for a year now, farmers have been protesting against changes in farm legislation. The government would not let them cross the border into Delhi, so the farmers have been camping at the border ever since, patiently waiting for the chance to come to the capital and protest there, and preset their views to the government.
Many of the protesting farmers at the border are Sikhs, but not exclusively. But it’s fair to say that Sikhs do make up much of the core group.
On our previous trips up to the hills this past year, we have driven past the camp, whizzing past on the main road, but this week (still not sure how/why) we ended up driving right through the protest site.
It had been pouring with rain, so much of the site was flooded, with huge potholes. The traffic was as lunatic as only Indian traffic can be, and it took us over 90 minutes to drive through the protest site.
Last week, a man was horrifically murdered at this site, by 4 “nihangs” (armed Sikh warriors) and I wondered whether this terrible murder might have led to increased police presence or even the dismantling of the protest site.
But to be honest there was no indication whatsoever that a murder had taken place. Very little police presence, but – tellingly – mile after mile of empty-looking huts and tents and trailers, all flooded out, poor things. I suspect there was just a token presence in the camp, but whether this is due to the ghastly murder or not, I can’t honestly say.
But what was the most extraordinary thing was that despite horrific traffic and crazy jams and massive potholes and the usual bad driving, there was hardly any honking or hooting (standard driving technique here) and absolutely no obvious ill temper.
People just sat in their cars and waited to cross the camp. As we did. For over 90 minutes.
I’m not sure why Ms Google sent us that way, but it was an eye-opener.
My totally amateur, totally non-scientific take is this: the farmers still enjoy the support of the people.
But it remains to be seen what damage the horrific murder will do to broad-based support for the protesting farmers.