Farmers set up gurdwara at protest site to derive ‘strength’
Under a canopy of orange and white drapes, a few farmers on Tuesday sat quietly in an enclosure similar to several others put up across the five-kilometre-long protest site at Delhi’s Singhu border. This enclosure, however, is different from others as protesting farmers have converted it into a makeshift gurdwara open to all—making it the only religious place on the protest site.
Set up on November 27 to “give strength” to the farmers, the gurdwara on Monday started a 48-hour “akhand path” or continuous recitation of the religious texts—a day before the Bharat Bandh. From taking off shoes to covering their heads to not turning their back towards the religious texts, people at the marquee follow all the rules put in place for any gurdwara.
Kuljeet Singh, a farmer from Ludhiana who has been at the protest site since it began 13 days ago, said, “We have built a farmers’ movement at a huge scale and need all the strength to sustain it as well as to fight for our rights. This is why a gurdwara was set up here. So that farmers, protesters, sympathisers across religions can come here and seek blessings.”
Apart from distributing prasad to devotees, the place also holds regular kirtans, often punctuated with stories of fighting injustice. On Tuesday afternoon, several farmers visited the makeshift gurdwara, kneeling and touching their forehead to the ground in front of a blue private bus housing three Sikhs reciting the “akhand path” which will go on till Wednesday. This will be followed by an “ardas” or prayer for the well-being of all.
Balbir Singh, in charge of the management at the gurdwara set up by Shiromani Panth Akali Budha Dal, said, “We have parked a tractor at the entrance of the enclosure to ensure that nobody has their backs to the sacred texts else it would be disrespectful. Everybody is welcome to the gurdwara. We set up this to help our farmer brothers derive strength from the words of Guru Granth Sahib.”
There are at least two gurdwaras around the protest spot, but many protesters said they weren’t aware of the locations. Narendra Pal Singh, another farmer from Ludhiana, said that the makeshift gurdwara saw a steady flow of visitors throughout the day. “More people than usual visited the gurdwara on Gurpurab (November 30). People find peace here, and sit and listen to kirtans or pray on their own,” he said.