An engineer by education and farmer by profession, Basant Singh of Fatehgarh Sahib in Punjab inspected the small house he had erected in the middle of GT-Karnal Road at Singhu border a year ago. Then with a sigh, he began dismantling the 2-feet tall brick walls joined with light cement. Within this space, he had put up awnings over a tractor trolley. This became his cabin with an air conditioner. There was space enough for a small lawn with two chairs and planters with hibiscus and roses.
“We came here thinking it would be a matter of few days and we would make do with the tents and tractor trollies. But the blame-game began and we realised it would take a long time for the central government to agree to our demands,” said Basant. “The day has finally come when we will leave this place.”
As the farmer leaders formally called off their protest on Thursday, the task of dismantling the micro town at Singhu border has begun. “We have been told to start moving out from December 11. We will, of course, have a celebration before that, but not on Friday because that day, the last rites of the chief of defence staff general Bipin Rawat, and others will be performed,” said Jaswant Singh, 60, of Ludhiana.
On Thursday, big speakers atop tractors played Punjabi songs louder than usual and the protesters happily danced through the day. “We have suspended the protest but will come back if the government reneges on its promises,” warned Karnal Singh, a farmer in his 60s from Ludhiana.
Many farmers were relaxed for the first time in many months. Octogenarian Amrik Singh of Moga was joined by his comrades, among them Jagroop Singh, 62, of Fazilka and Maluk Singh, 59, of Moga, in a card game. “Don’t think we simply sat here playing cards,” smiled an emotional Amrik.
Meanwhile, Saroop Singh, a young kabaddi player, detailed the arrangements made for boarding, lodging and fooding for over a thousand protesters at the deserted KFC Tower, a shopping mall at Singur. “The kabaddi league players received help from sponsors and we had over a thousand volunteers coming every day to look after he needs of the protesters, including setting up a langar at a cost of Rs 4.5 lakh,” said Saroop.