As farmers stared dismantling their temporary accommodation and bundling up their paraphernalia at the Singhu border protest site on Thursday, volunteers who have served them since day one rode a wave of conflicting emotions.
The farmers are preparing to go home after more than a year of protest at Delhi borders during which they endured harsh Delhi winter, scorching summer, police pushback, the rampaging coronavirus pandemic and the persistent complaint that their agitation inconvenienced thousands of commuters daily.
The smiles and hugs hide the pain of parting, Bakshish (30), who managed the 10-bed Kisan Mazdoor Ekta Hospital says. “We made a lot of friends. We got to know the real Punjab and Haryana here. We will celebrate the victory, but something tugs at my heartstrings,” he says.
Bakshish says the Life Care Foundation-run makeshift hospital recorded over a lakh OPD visits in the last one year and local residents accounted for more than 50 per cent of them. “We feel sad and happy at the same time. I do not feel like leaving this place. But we have to. We plan to remain here till the end to cater to any medical emergency,” he says.
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella body of 40 farm unions, on Thursday decided to suspend the long-drawn protest after the Centre agreed to consider their all other demands, days into the repeal of the three contentious farm laws.
The SKM leaders announced that stir will be suspended and the farmers would go back home in a victory march on December 11. Khalsa Aid's India director Amarpreet Singh says the bond with the farmers will stand the test of time. “We served our family without thinking for once who came from where,” he says.
With around 500 volunteers involved, this has been one of the largest projects of the non-government organisation, Amarpreet Singh said, adding they have touched millions of lives. From distributing food to providing medical help to installing foot massagers, Khalsa Aid left no stone unturned to help the protesting farmers at Delhi's borders feel at home, he said.
Now, when the farmers have decided to suspend the protest and return home, the NGO plans to donate the appliances and articles used at the protest sites among the needy in nearby villages, he said. These include portable toilets, air conditioners, washing machines, fans, coolers, chairs, blankets, mattresses, drums, and clothes, Amarpreet Singh said.
NGOs played a big role in managing the largest protest site at the Singhu border. The long, dusty stretch of the Delhi-Karnal road turned into a makeshift town, equipped with all amenities one could think of.
Harinder Singh (24), who managed a night shelter run by Sarbat Da Bhala Charitable Trust at the protest site, felt a rush of conflicting emotions as soon as the SKM announced to suspend the movement.
“It’s been a good time here. I am proud of the work we have done and will carry a lot of memories along. Now, it’s time to go home,” he said while bundling up mattresses in the facility.
-With PTI Inputs