Chill fails to dampen protest spirit

Farmers at Singhu border say they are used to worse, will not back down until their demands are met

Early morning temperature in the national capital on Tuesday dropped to a bone-chilling 4 degree Celsius, but the farmers protesting at the Singhu border were not just unperturbed by the dip in mercury but in fact their determination was at a peak.

โ€œBack in our villages, we are immersed in water during the chilly months. Punjab is always colder than Delhi. This is nothing for us,โ€ said Gurbir Singh (40), resident of Patiala.

Explaining the use of water in this season, Mr. Gurbir said this is the time when the fields are watered every few days. โ€œWe get electricity in the fields around 10 p.m. and thatโ€™s when we start watering the fields. The process usually lasts the entire night and we stay awake drenched in water all night,โ€ he said.

Back home, this is what the families are doing while the farmers hold fort in the Capital. โ€œMy 12-year-old son is now watering the fields. He and my wife also cut fodder for our cattle. They call and ask us not to come till we have won the battle,โ€ he said.

Jagtar Singh added that his three-year-old daughter also calls him every day and asks him: โ€œDid [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi meet you? If not, should I come?โ€.

The protesting farmers, including many elderly one, beat the cold tucked in their blankets inside the tractors and trolleys at night. โ€œWe wear sweaters and jackets. Inside the tractor, there are layers of mattress and blanket,โ€ said Mr. Gurbir.

Sitting next to him, exhuming passion, 62-year-old Naib Singh said: โ€œWe will not leave no matter how cold it gets. We will win this fight. There are so many people that some of us take only one blanket at night.โ€

Walking without socks in his black juttis, 73-year-old Karnail Singh from Sangrur held a pair of socks in his hands. โ€œA kind girl just gave it to me and asked me to wear it fearing Iโ€™ll fall sick,โ€ he said, adding that he will remain at the protest till the three farm laws are repealed.

Inside the tractor, his friend Sohan Singh, 60, was lying tucked inside a thick blanket. He has had a fever and a stomachache since Monday night. โ€œA doctor has seen him and given medicines. He has caught a cold. It will take two days for him to go back home. We will wait and see if he gets better here,โ€ Mr Karnail said.

Protesters use plastic sheets to cover the gap between the road and the edge of the truck to prevent any cold drafts.

Beating the cold

In addition to warm clothes and blankets, the farmers eat dry fruits and drink hot milk mixed with ghee, honey, dates and almonds.

โ€œPunjabiyon ko zyada thand nahin lagti. Aur log AC rooms aur heaters main rehte hain, thand unhe lagti hai [Punjabis donโ€™t feel cold. Those who use ACs and heaters, feel cold],โ€ said 76-year-old Maan Singh.

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