The parade started with a batch of 150 tractors from Deon village of Bathinda district. By the time it concluded at Sarja Mehma village, the tractor count had increased to 350. This was one tractor parade rehearsal done in 13 villages of Bathinda block.
“We started from Deon village with 150 tractors. As we marched, more tractors kept on joining us. The idea is to make people aware of this parade so that we can go in large numbers to Delhi,” said Amrik Singh Sivian, a resident of Sivian village and block president of BKU Ugrahan, while talking to The Indian Express.
“Over 700 people were in this tractor rehearsal. A number of them were youngsters. The tractors were being driven by boys aged 18 and above and the rest were sitting as co-drivers,” said Gurpal Singh Deon, from Deon village who is block general secretary of BKU Ugrahan. Gurpal is 40 years old. However, sources said that a few aged 17 too were in the driver’s seat.
In fact, the young brigade infused a fresh energy in the parade. Sukhpreet Singh, 14, was a co-driver on the tractor of Aarshdeep Singh, 17. Both belong to Sivian village. Likewise, Ramanpreet Singh, 19, Swaranjeet Singh, 18, and Angrej Singh, 19, were ecstatic driving tractors through villages. “We are here to protest against kale kanoon, no matter what our age is. This is a protest of every house now. We go to fields with our fathers. We are young farmers. We are all set to go to Delhi for tractor parade,” said Angrej Singh of Sivian village as he went through Jeeda village. “We started about 10 am and crossing through villages of Sivian, Gill Patti, Bhokra, Khiyali Wala, Jandwala and Khemuana, we reached Jeeda village about 4 pm where we partook of tea langar and pakore langar at Jeeda toll plaza. Dharna at toll plaza has been going on since October 1,” Amrik said.
Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan of BKU Ugrahan said, “A number of people got their tractors refilled with fuel on their own. The others who could not afford were given funds from our union. The rehearsal is not about how to keep distance or how to maintain speed during march, but the rehearsal is more about making people aware of the tractor parade. This is the reason that they move in convoys through villages,” he added.
Kokrikalan said, “On January 26, there will be no tractor march in Punjab but it will be in Delhi only. On Thursday, rehearsals were held in 1245 villages. More villages will be added on Friday.” Kokrikalan himself led the tractor march in Barnala area.
The tractors had flags of BKU Ugrahan and banners with slogans of “kisan mazdoor ekta zindabaad, kale kanoon radd karo”, “we are farmers, not terrorists”, and “no farmer, no food”. During the tractor march at every village, people were informed about the R-Day tractor parade and the plan of BKU Ugrahan to start for Delhi on January 23 and 24.
“We did not talk about government proposal or Delhi government’s refusal to the tractor parade, because as of now tractor parade is on and we will abide by the decision of our union leaders,” said Jagseer Singh Kothaguru, union member from BKU Ugrahan from Bathinda.
“Meetings of our education cell are continuing in which we are telling youngsters that maintaining discipline is a must. In these cells, all our retired teachers who are farmers and are part of the union are teaching villagers in small gatherings,” Kokrikalan said.
The march culminated at Sarja Mehma village by 6 pm and tea langar was served yet again. Similar rehearsals are to be held on Friday as well.
The rehearsal in Bathinda
Block: No. of tractors; Villages covered; No. of persons in the convoy
Bathinda: 350; 13; 700
Nathana: 298; 10; 700
Sangat: 901; 30; 3400
Bhagta: 1500; 20; 3400
Talwandi: 175; 8; 350
Maur: 405; 20; 1000
Rampura: 402; 32; 950
*Few motorcycles and cars participated too