Supporters flock to UP Gate at night as Tikait’s emotional appeal goes viral - Hindustan Times
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Supporters flock to UP Gate at night as Tikait’s emotional appeal goes viral

Jan 29, 2021 11:59 PM IST

Ghaziabad: Thirty-two-year-old Amrita Kundu was one of the first farmers’ supporters who reached UP-Gate protest site in Ghaziabad Thursday night from her house in Nangloi, Delhi

Ghaziabad: Thirty-two-year-old Amrita Kundu was one of the first farmers’ supporters who reached UP-Gate protest site in Ghaziabad Thursday night from her house in Nangloi, Delhi. She said this was after she saw a video in which Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) national spokesperson Rakesh Tikait was seen in tears, pleading with people to come with water and food.

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HT Image

Kundu said she along with her husband immediately set out in their car to UP Gate along with a bottle of water which they finally offered to Tikait at about 11pm Thursday.

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“I was shocked when I came across the video of Rakesh ji wherein he was in tears at the dais. I felt very upset about this and straight away came to UP Gate to support the farmers. I and my family have been active participants in the ongoing protests at Singhu and Tikri borders as we are from a farmer family based in Kaithal, Haryana. I could not see my farmer leader crying for help and support of people. So, both of us rushed to the site with water,” she added.

As videos and news reports about Tikait breaking down at the UP Gate protest site went viral, the fortunes of the protesting farmers also took a turn.

“After the violence in Delhi on Republic Day, many of our people returned home and numbers were thinning. Everyone at the site was upset and even more so when the Ghaziabad police arrived to serve us a notice for vacating the site and for arresting our leader. However, the entire sequence changed when Tikait ji went into tears. He was pained by the series of events and his tears brought more and more people to the site on Thursday night,” said Rajbir Singh, state vice-president of the BKU.

After the police arrived at the site, Tikait had also said at the dais that he would hang himself rather than leave the protest site.

As the video gained traction, it caught the attention of people as well as a group of four who were at their home in Fatehgarh Sahib district, in Punjab.

“It was very painful to watch him cry and ask for help. The four of us could not hold ourselves back and we started our journey to UP Gate, driving 300kms with a bottle of water,” said Gagandeep Singh Guraya, an advocate and resident of Fatehgarh Sahib.

The group reached UP Gate in their car at about 4am on Friday and finally met Tikait.

“There was dense fog in Sonepat and Karnal and our driving speed was reduced to about 5kmph at times. However, we made up for the lost time as other parts of the route were clear. We will now stay here and will see to it that more people reach here, and the protest continues,” said Love Preet Singh, another member from the group.

The initial response of people in different cities across the states was unexpected for farmers at UP Gate.

“As the night got on, more and more people started to come to the UP Gate site. We initially could not believe the response, but more and more vehicles started to flow in from Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Uttarakhand,” Rajbir Singh added.

It was around 7pm when Ankit Chaudhary, along with a group of his 17 friends, came across the video over social media and decided to board a tractor-trolley from Datiyana village in UP’s Muzaffarnagar.

“We were filled with anger and realised that enough was enough, after we saw our leader in tears in the video. We could not resist ourselves as it seemed to us that he was in pain in trying to save the honour of farmers. So, we got the fuel tank of our tractor filled up and joined the trolley before setting out for a journey of about 150kms to UP Gate,” Chaudhary added.

Rakesh Tikait is the son of farmer leader late Mahendra Singh Tikait and resident of Sisoli in Muzaffarnagar district of western UP.

Like Chaudhary, Prem Singh Sobta from Udham Singh Nagar in Uttarakhand, who saw Tikait’s video live, prepared himself within half an hour to leave for UP Gate.

“We came to UP Gate in two cars and reached by midnight. I had initially come here to attend farmers’ tractor rally on Republic Day and left for home thereafter. But I again rushed back when I saw the video. As people started coming, the motivation level of farmers began to rise,” he added.

Tikait during his address on Thursday evening had said that he will not leave the site and will consume food and water only if people will bring these to him. This was after he alleged that while Ghaziabad officials were holding talks with him for his arrest and vacating the protest site, some unruly elements arrived at the site to unleash havoc on the protesting farmers.

Meanwhile, there were apprehensions among farmers that the authorities will get the site vacated themselves and could even arrest Tikait, following FIRs lodged in connection with the incidents of violence in Delhi on the Republic Day.

“When I was at the dais, I felt that something very wrong was about to happen and then I decided that I will not leave farmers and won’t vacate the site. After the video went viral, I was myself surprised that it had so much impact that people set out for UP Gate at night itself,” Tikait said.

The dais at the site generally goes silent at night but Tikait was present there till 4am on Friday, meeting everyone who had arrived from their hometowns.

Apart from people flocking the UP Gate protest, there were also others who were preparing to leave. An HT team at 3am on Friday spotted Ranjeet Singh resurrecting the banner of the ‘langar’ (community kitchen) set up by Sant Nirmal Singh Bhuri Wale

“We had almost packed up our food items and were about to shift to our other langar which is in Haridwar. But we saw people coming to UP Gate and vehicles arriving after the video went viral. As the night continued, more and more people arrived, and we understood that the gathering will swell further. Then we decided that we will not move out and continue to serve people here,” he added.

Till midnight, there was heavy deployment of about 2,000 police and security personnel at the site, while officials were preparing to get the site vacated.

However, numbers of protesters started increasing and officials decided to withdraw the deployment. At around 2am, personnel of the provincial armed constabulary (PAC) deployed at the site were asked to board their buses and return.

Ever since the incidents seen in Delhi on January 26, the gathering at the UP Gate site has decreased considerably and stood at about 1,000-1,200 on Thursday. Protesters said that the declining numbers could have given a chance to the authorities to get the site vacated easily.

However, BKU leaders said that the gathering after Tikait’s emotional outburst swelled to about 10-15,000 on Friday and almost every inch at the site was occupied.

The police, however, pegged the number to be lesser. “The gathering swelled considerably at UP Gate on Friday, and we expect that it was about 5,000. The deployment at the site was also lesser on Friday,” said Gyanendra Singh, superintendent of police (city 2).

Thousands of protesters from UP, Uttarakhand and Punjab had been camping at the UP Gate site, near Delhi’s Ghazipur border, since November 28, 2020, demanding repeal of three new farm laws.

“We have served notice to the farmer leaders at UP Gate to vacate the site and are waiting for their reply. Thereafter, our next course of action will be decided,” said Ajay Shankar Pandey, district magistrate of Ghaziabad.

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