How Rakesh Tikait’s tears turned the tables in less than two hours at Ghazipur border

An emotional statement by the BKU leader in the face of a police crackdown galvanised thousands of farmers to gather at the protest site, forcing the huge police contingent to retreat

BKU leader Rakesh Tikait (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/ @iHShaheen)
BKU leader Rakesh Tikait (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/ @iHShaheen)


The unexpected turn of events at the Ghazipur border protest site last night gave fresh hope to thousands of farmers protesting against the three farm laws all across the nation. And the credit for this goes to Bharatiya Kisan Union spokesman Rakesh Tikait.

Son of legendary farm leader Mahendra Singh Tikait, Rakesh was down with fever when thousands of Uttar Pradesh Police personnel and CRPF jawans armed with weapons, lathis and tear gas gheraoed at the protest site and demanded dispersal of the protestors on Thursday evening.

Rakesh Tikait was in his tent when the security forces descended at the site, followed by a large contingent of mainstream media. By 5 pm on Thursday, a brutal crackdown seemed imminent.

The mainstream media gleefully reported that Tikait was about to surrender and that the protest was all but over. An Aaj Tak anchor asked Tikait at least 10 times whether he would surrender or not.

It is worth mentioning here that the Delhi Police had issued a notice to Tikait for the violence during the tractor rally on Republic Day, which was put up outside his tent.

Faced with the prospect of being forcefully evicted, the farmers’ leaders held a meeting and decided that clearing the protest site was not an option. “Seen dying in the battlefield, rather than surrendering or talking of a compromise will keep the movement alive,” said a BKU leader.

Then came the defining movement which changed the course of events. Tikait went to the podium and made an emotional announcement, with tears in his eyes. He said he will commit suicide but not end the protest. His statement that he will not even drink water until a tractor from his village joins the protest at Ghazipur moved the hearts and minds of farmers across western UP.

His words spread like a wildfire and within half an hour, thousands of people hit the road in Meerut, Hapur, Muzaffarnagar, Shamli and other parts of western UP.

Photographs of Tikait in tears angered Jats, especially those who belong to the Baliyan Khap. “Our leader is crying in Delhi and we are sitting at home…BJP leadership ditched us…. was the feeling,” said a youth leader from the community. Jats have voted for the BJP for several years in this belt.

By 8 pm, hundreds of tractors were on the road marching towards Ghazipur border. A group of 200 hundred people from Muzaffarnagar reached the protest site by 10-10.30 pm. Similar protests erupted in various parts of western Uttar Pradesh.

Interestingly, the police and CRPF personnel who came prepared to use force on the farmers started retreating as more protesters poured in. The government seemed to have realized that using force against the protesters would be politically detrimental.

The Ghazipur protest site, which was wearing a deserted look a day before, saw a reenergised protest against the three farm laws by midnight. Tikait, who till a few weeks ago was perceived as a weak link of the movement, has now emerged as one of the strongest faces of the farmers’ protests.

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Published: 29 Jan 2021, 1:01 PM