New Delhi: A doctor, a retired teacher, an ex-army man, a former Delhi police constable… These are among the people who guided and shaped the nationwide movement against the three new agri laws which the government agreed to repeal on Friday (November 19) after more than a year of protests. Here are some of the key farmer leaders who fronted the protests:
RAKESH TIKAIT, national spokesperson of the Bharatiya Kisan Union
Once a Delhi Police constable, Tikait has played a key role in negotiations with the government. The 52-year-old tried his hand at electoral politics and has been a farmer leader with the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) for years. He broke out of the confines of western Uttar Pradesh to find a space in the national spotlight during the farmers protest. The watershed moment came when he broke down while talking to reporters after the Republic Day violence in Delhi, striking a deep emotional chord and also pumping new energy into the protests.
DARSHAN PAL, member, working group, All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee
An MBBS doctor by profession, 70-year-old Pal has been very active in talks with central and state leaders over the farm laws. He played a crucial role in bringing farmer unions together and performed the role of coordinator in the talks. He also played a pivotal role in taking the agitation beyond Punjab to farmers in other states of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra.
JOGINDER SINGH UGRAHAN, president, BKU (Ugrahan)
The ex-Army man, viewed as one of the more popular farm leaders, belongs to a farming family of Sunam. He has been a frontrunner in the movement with his team behind some aggressive aspects of the protests in Punjab, including the Rail Roko agitation and the ‘gheraoing’ of BJP leaders. While most farmer unions were protesting at Singhu border, his union almost single handedly held fort at the Tikri border.
BALBIR SINGH RAJEWAL, president, BKU
His skilful articulation of the farmers’ viewpoint played a key role during talks with central ministers. The 78-year-old was one of the main leaders during the meetings of the 31 unions in planning and implementing their protests. He was also the brain behind preparing the protest’s demand charter.
HANNAN MOLLAH, CPI(M) politburo member and general secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha
The 75-year-old has been a constant voice demanding the repeal of the farm laws during the protests. He has maintained that the protests will continue till the laws are repealed through a process in Parliament. Mollah has also stood for enactment of legal entitlement for the farmers to sell at MSP and believes that the struggle will continue to achieve this goal.
GURNAM SINGH CHADUNI, president, BKU, Haryana
Credited with mobilising farmers before the three farm laws were passed, 65-year-old Chaduni led many successful agitations earlier and has adopted unique ways to protest, including shirtless marches and throwing potatoes on state highways. It was on Chaduni’s call that protesters tried to make their way to a BJP event in Karnal, attended among others by Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar. The crackdown that followed left several farmers injured and put the Khattar government on the backfoot.
SUKHDEV SINGH KOKRIKALAN, general secretary; BKU, Ugrahan
A retired school teacher, the now 71-year-old farmer leader Kokrikalan has been at the forefront against confrontation with police during the Delhi Chalo agitation. The government and unions have held 11 rounds of talks, the last being on January 22, to break the deadlock and end the farmers’ protest. Talks have not resumed following widespread violence during a tractor rally by protesting farmers on January 26.