Ground report from ‘UP farmers’ capital’ Sisauli: Palpable anger among farmers, BJP faces electoral rout
The political significance of Sisauli, a small town in terms of population, in Muzaffarnagar district, is high. The late Chaudhary Mahendra Singh Tikait had founded the Bharatiya Kisan Union here
A large drawing room in Sisauli in Muzaffarnagar district, arguably the epicenter of the farmers’ movement against the farm laws in western UP, s adorned with hundreds of photographs of late Chaudhary Mahendra Singh Tikait, capturing his life as a farmers’ leader.
The hall is alive with activity. Sitting just below the biggest picture of Chaudhary Mahendra Singh Tikait is his son Rakesh Tikait, interacting with locals. He has reached Sisauli today.
As soon as the news of his arrival spreads, his family members start gathering. Rakesh Tikait speaks in gestures and tells us that there is no need to say anything to anyone as the farmers understands everything.
Rakesh Tikait is visibly overwhelmed when he reaches his home. He was away for almost 13 months, moving around the country. He says that it feels good to come home. “Now I want to live among the people of the area for a few days. It is good to see that now the farmers have started to understand politics, but they will vote to tighten the grip on the bull that spoils the crop,” he says.
A farmer named Indrajit Malik gently tells a young man standing near him, "Look, now Chaudhary Sahab (Rakesh Tikait) too explains in gestures like Baba Tikait".
While Rakesh Tikait goes upstairs to meet his family members, his nephew Gaurav Tikait tells us that Chaudhary of Balyan Khap and president of Bhartiya Kisan Union Naresh Tikait has come over.
Chaudhary Naresh Tikait sits in a compound. The traditional identity of the village is the omni-present hookah. Although Naresh Tikait does not smoke hookah, many farmers present there like it.
Naresh Tikait has recently undergone shoulder surgery. He explains that during this time, some BJP leaders also came to inquire about his health. Among them was Union Minister Sanjeev Balyan. However, there is a lot of resentment among the locals and the BJP is going to suffer a great loss, he points out.
The atmosphere at Tikait Niwas in Sisauli is like a mini panchayat. Naresh Tikait is surrounded by dozens of elders. Some youths are also present. All the conversation is centered around farmers and politics.
A young man says that a farmer in Lilon village of Shamli had pasted a notice outside his house that if BJP people came to him to ask for votes, they will be welcomed with sticks. He also displayed his photo posing with a stick, following which the police were harassing him.
Naresh Tikait says that this is not the right way. “There is no need to quarrel. Just give the vote wisely!” he says.
Another young man tells the story of a protest against a BJP candidate in Chur village of Meerut, while another farmer relates the story of a BJP MLA chased away by the public in Khatauli.
An elderly farmer, Virendra Hooda, says that there was a lot of resentment among people. Naresh Tikait responds to this with a smile, saying that the elections should be held using ballot papers so that people can express displeasure by pressing the stamp forcefully, which can’t be done in the case of EVMs being used now.
Sisauli, a small town in terms of population, is 34 kilometres from Muzaffarnagar. Its political significance is high. The late Chaudhary Mahendra Singh Tikait had founded the Bharatiya Kisan Union here. And it is this very Sisauli from where the strange report of a chief minister being made to drink water in a 'karwa' (earthen utensil) had surfaced.
Sisauli is called ‘Kisan Capital’. The town comes under Budhana assembly. This time, the contest here is between Samajwadi Party-RLD alliance candidate Rajpal Balyan and sitting BJP MLA Umesh Malik.
Ishwar Singh, an 87-year-old farmer, is going house to house seeking votes for Rajpal Balyan. He says that the SP-RLD alliance will win this seat with the highest number of votes across Uttar Pradesh.
Naresh Tikait says the masses were acutely aware of the situation. “The BJP will have to bear heavy losses. They will have to answer for the farmers’ deaths. They have to pay a fair price for the crops,” he says.
Incidentally, Budhana assembly was one of the most affected areas during the Muzaffarnagar riots. The villages most affected during the riots –Bahawadi, Lank, Kharad, Fugana, Kutba, Kutbi and Bhaurakalan – fall in this assembly.
Today, in these areas, the people’s anger against the BJP is palpable. People seem eager to change the government.
Referring to the riots, Naresh Tikait says that there was something akin to a wave that swept the area in 2013. “Whatever happened should not have happened. Riots cause losses for workers, farmers and daily wage earners. Even then we kept Sisauli safe, though the situation was bad. We tried to get the people who had left back to their villages. We were able to persuade some families which had left Sisauli to return. Now, the farmers’ movement has completely washed away any feelings of hatred. Muslims have rubbed shoulders with farmers. The hatred card is no longer going to work. Now it is all about serious issues,” he says.
(Translated from Hindi by Abhir More)