Mohali: Farming leaders from Gujarat – the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi – said they had to dress up to avoid heavy police surveillance and join protests against farm laws.
Palbhai Ambaliya, Yakub Guraji and Jayesh Patel, along with other leaders and representatives of the Gujarat farmers’ unions, founded an umbrella organization called Gujarat Kisan Sangharsh Samiti on December 6th to mobilize support for the protest from Delhi Chalo farmers in northern India.
However, almost every leader present at the December 6 meeting has been placed under house arrest by the Gujarat government in an attempt to thwart any protest plans, several farmers said.
While the popular tale of farmer excitement has been that only Punjab and Haryana farmers agitate against the laws, the truth is that Gujarat farmers are not joining because they are not allowed to, Ambaliya said The cable.
“The Gujarat government has used state police to monitor cell phones, our WhatsApp chats, the movement of our vehicles and the people who come out and into our homes to prevent us from mobilizing,” said the popular peasant leader and activist on the phone.
Another peasant leader, Yakub Guraji, accused Gujarat police of harassing his family when he tried to travel to New Delhi to join the protest.
“Eight to ten policemen blocked my way to Delhi on December 11th. They took me into custody and kept me in a cell for one night, even though they could not bring any charges,” he said.
While the farmers were demonstrating for his release, the police approached Guraji’s family and asked his son about his job. He wasn’t released until the next morning.
“I told the police that over 10,000 people will be marching in groups from Gujarat to Delhi. How many people can they arrest and imprison? “
Today, December 15, at the inauguration of a mega-energy project in Gujarats Kutch, the Prime Minister said the Indian government is “committed to the welfare of farmers and will continue to reassure farmers and address their concerns”. Modes too accused the “opposition” to misleading the peasants at a time when the nation is taking a “historic step”.
Excerpts from the conversation with Ambaliya provide a detailed picture of the level of police surveillance that Gujarat farmers are exposed to. The questions and answers have been edited slightly for the sake of clarity.
How did you escape the police?
On December 6th, the Gujarat government somehow learned of our meeting, which was being held in Ahmedabad under the banner of Gujarat Kisan Sangharsh Samiti. At the meeting we announced that a Kisaan Sansad The program takes place on December 11th.
Before running the program, we asked the government for permission, but it was denied. Our plan was to keep that up Kisan Sansad and set off for New Delhi at a rally of 2,000 farmers and workers. The Sansad It was planned to speak solely on the subject of farmers. But the government didn’t give us permission.
In addition, from December 10th, the police began arresting all peasant leaders one by one.
As soon as I found out about this, I left my home in Dwaraka and made my way to Junagarh to avoid my impending arrest. I turned off my phone. When I reached Junagarh, I turned on my phone briefly. The police somehow managed to find my phone. I got a couple of calls from the police that I couldn’t leave the place.
But then I turned my cell phone off again. I knew which way the police would come for me, so I went the opposite way. I went to Kutch and from there to Gandhinagar. I navigated the state while the police chased me.
In Junagarh I decided to dress up. I changed my hair. I usually wear a traditional dhoti, but I bought a pair of jeans and a shirt and put them on. I gave my car to someone else and got another car. I reached Udaipur on December 12th.
Similarly, Dahyabhai Gajera, another farm manager, was under house arrest. But while the police were at his front door, he managed to escape through the back door with the help of his son. His son quickly dropped him off at a nearby bus stop. From there, Dahyabhai secretly took a bus to Udaipur.
As we speak, over 16 Gujarat farm leaders are under house arrest. Not everyone has the strength to evade such a police chase. Very few of us could do it. Despite all this, around 150 people have been able to leave Gujarat so far. Some of us have reached the Delhi-Jaipur border, others on the Singhu border.
Since when have Gujarat’s farmers been speaking out against the farm laws?
Gujarat farmers have been mobilizing against the ordinances since day one. When it became a law, we condemned it. When it was passed by a brutal majority, we condemned it. But none of us were allowed to pronounce condemnation on a large scale.
The day before, agricultural organizations requested one Bharat Bandh, the Prime Minister [Vijay Rupani] addressed the Gujarat traders through the press and said that they are not allowed to support the farmers. The government also issued an order under Section 144. All of this is being done to create an environment of fear.
Why does the Gujarat government not want you at the protest site in Delhi?
Let me tell you the greatest fear they have. Check out the government’s praise for the new laws they passed. They try to meet people in the village to convince them of the laws. Just like that, the government had one a few years ago The crop insurance system, which has also been praised like these laws, is being praised.
But in Gujarat today, the entire program has proven to be a huge failure.
The insurance companies and the government are corrupt. This program has also been referred to as Prime Minister Modi’s dream project. If it was a dream project, why was it suspended in Gujarat? We will talk about this in Delhi Morcha and that’s why they don’t want us there. The real Gujarat model is revealed to everyone.
How many Gujarat farmers are likely to join the riot on the Delhi borders?
Around 200 more people are now leaving for Delhi. Like me, you will go in secret too. Right now in Gujarat you can’t even say you are going to Delhi. You cannot talk about the movement until you have left Gujarat. This is the Gujarat model. All of our phones, WhatsApp chats, our vehicles, everything is monitored.
Today the Prime Minister meets the farmers of Kutch in Gujarat. Does he meet her to allay her fears?
After 2002, Kutch became a corporate free zone. At that time, many Sardarians were moving to Kutch for business. The sardars in Kutch are traders, not farmers. The soil in Kutch is not fertile enough for agriculture.
BJP’s strategy was also for them to speak to people who speak their language. The farmers he meets will do that. And it’s not that BJP doesn’t have farmers as members and supporters. There are also some farmers in BJP who believe in their party’s ideology.