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Decode

Kites to Colgate: How Farmers Are Protecting Themselves At The Protest

Some farmers have even brought wet jute sacs to entrap tear gas shells and fitted fans to blow away the smoke.

By - Titha Ghosh | 15 Feb 2024 11:46 AM GMT

As stories of escalating tensions at the borders poured in, the second day of the farmers’ ‘Delhi Chalo’ protest saw police use extreme measures to block farmers from entering the city. From pellet guns on Khanauri border to tear gas from drones at the Shambhu border, the attacks were aimed at preventing farmers from getting closer to the cemented barricades.

Videos of farmers from the Shambhu border, on the Punjab-Haryana border began going viral on Indian video-sharing platforms like Moj and Like. These farmers recorded themselves having to adopt unique techniques to defend themselves against the tear gas shelling by the police.

In one video with over 46,000 likes by a ‘Pekhamtractormehkana’ farmers were seen resorting to flying kites in an attempt to entangle police’s flying drones and bring them down. This was a reaction to the Haryana personnel dropping tear gas shells using drones. Protestors were caught off-guard by the use of these drones, resulting in multiple farmers being injured.

Kirandeep, one of these young farmers said, “Some of us were flying kites when incidentally the drones came in. And saw that the strings were impeding their flight.” According to Kirandeep, the kites were initially intended for Basant Utsav, but once they were successful in stopping the drones, they were used innovatively to counter the surveillance.

Quickly it turned into an effective strategy and farmers were heard screaming to each other “Jaldi karo, fasaalo dhaage mein,” (Quickly, use the kite thread to trap the drone). As soon as the drones get caught, the crowd hoots and cheers “gir gaya drone” (the drone has fallen). In a video, farmers were seen announcing on speakers, “We won’t fall to government pressures. We’re here fighting for our rights.”

These drones were a part of the security’s strategy to stop farmers from getting closer to the multi-layered barricades. As the ongoing stalemate between the Centre and the farmers continues, the government has responded by deploying several layers of metal blockade, followed by large stone boulders. In some parts, layers of nails have also been placed in between rows of concrete barricades.

To ensure that farmers are not able to easily remove these layers, cement has been poured in between each layer to solidify the barricading. Moreover, near the Singhu border, roads have been dug up to stop tractors from being able to cross borders.

However, videos online have surfaced showing farmers with modified tractors overcoming the blocks. A video by ‘bathh341’ on Moj showed farmers driving away in tractors with cement barricades tied to the back as others crowd gathered around cheering. In another video with over 21,000 likes, young farmers are seen dismantling and driving over blocking rocks.

The comments on these videos predominantly cheered for the farmers for their unique tricks. “Mauj aa gaya,” commented a Deepak Dhillon. A ‘gaggideol02’ video showed tractors breaking through metal barricades of Haryana Police. With over 20,000 likes, the comments read, “Koi rok ni sakta punjabi nu” (No one can stop a Punjabi), and “Kisaan zindabad” (All hail farmers).

Loverpreet Chema, a protestor at the site showed tractors with metal platforms fitted to the backs and sacs tied to the seats for easy access during shelling. “The tractors have been readied so they can put up a fight against the police,” he said in the video. “Barricades kitne bhi pakke banao, kisaan muqabla kar sakegi.” (No matter how strong your barricades, the farmers will be able to put up a fight). Lovepreet Chema even called upon other farmers to “take their positions” at the borders to fight for their rights. With over 7000 followers, Chema has been covering the protests from the grounds since the beginning of the march.

At the Haryana border, when the tear gas shelling began, the protesters had very little time to react. The farmers equipped themselves with wet cloth and protective layers tied to their bodies to minimise the impact of tear gas. Jasmeet Singh, a farmer shared videos of tractors with big fans being used to blow away the smoke from tear gas shelling. Suresh Choudhary, a farmer caught in the shelling said, “The tear gas shelling felt more lethal this time. So many of us were vomiting, unable to breathe or see properly. Our eyes burned for hours after and we were forced to take precautions.”

In a video by ‘DeepSidhu312’, farmers were seen applying a thick layer of toothpaste on their limbs and faces to cool off from the burning of tear gas. Others used multani mitti (a homemade mud pack) to bring relief. In another video, protestors were seen fanning away the poisonous smoke from the shelling using large handmade paddy fans. Others captured shells in sacs and quickly wrapped them up to throw them back at the police beyond the barricades. In the video, the protestors were seen screaming, “paani daalo” to anyone hit by the shelling. “Some of us have even been hit with stones, and have had our backs slashed. So we have brought jute bags to wet and put on our skin to relieve the pain,” said Choudhary. A different video of Jasmeet Singh shows wet bags being dropped on the tear gas shells.Some of them even brought along paddy winnowing fans to change the direction of the smoke emanating from the tear gas shells

In a rare sight, a Haryana police officer was seen approaching the protesting farmers assuring them that nothing would happen if they continued to protest peacefully. “Aap bhi majboor ho, hum bhi majboor hai. Aap shanti rakh ke baitho toh kuch nahi karenge,” (Your hands are tied, so are ours. Sit peachefully and nothing will happen). It was all captured on video with over 15,000 likes and comments commending the bravery of the farmers.

The farmers are protesting to secure a law guaranteeing an MSP for crops. Other key points of contention have to do with the repeal of the Electricity Act 2020, compensation for farmers killed in Lakhimpur Kheri, and the withdrawal of cases against those involved in the farmers' movement.