Mahendra Singh Tikait, who spearheaded farmer movements for 25 years, lived a life of relentless struggle, his friends recalled on Sunday.
He lost his father Chaudhary Chohal Singh at a tender age and had to head the Balyan khap when he was only eight. Tikait accomplished the task meticulously and won the laurels of his clansmen.
He was elected chief of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) on October 17, 1986, in a panchayat held at his native village Sisauli and led his first movement, against escalated power tariff, in April next year. More than 300,000 farmers turned up at Karmukheri village on his call and the movement compelled the state government to roll back the tariff hike.
From this point, Tikait moved from strength to strength. He cordoned the office of divisional commissioner in Meerut for 25 days in January 1988. His seven-day dharna at Boat Club in Delhi the same year, the 'Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan' rally in 1989 and the Kisan Panchayat in Lucknow in 1990 raised his stature and forced many top leaders, including chief ministers and union ministers, to visit him at Sisauli. This was the time when other farmer leaders of the country joined hands with Tikait.
Harendra Malik, a former Congress MP, said Tikait was like a banyan tree under which farmers got the confidence to fight for their rights.
Tikait's leadership in the 'agriculture belt' of western UP helped unite the disorganised community of farmers. Even after death, the force of his beliefs will affect farmers' politics in western UP.