Large parts of the Singhu border protest site lay vacant on Friday after a number of farmers bundled up their belongings and headed home on tractors, while others worked long hours to dismantle the makeshift accommodations they built painstakingly over the last year.
Tractors bedecked with colourful lights rolled out of the protest site blaring songs of victory. The elderly flaunted their colourful turbans and danced with the youngsters.
Ladders, tarpaulin, poles and ropes lay scattered at the once-buzzing protest site, while blankets, pillows, mattresses and chairs were neatly stacked on the roadside.
The Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), which spearheaded the farmers’ agitation, had on Thursday announced the suspension of the protest that began over a year ago to seek the repeal of the Centre’s farm laws.
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Weeks after the government withdrew the contentious laws, the farmers will head home on Saturday morning.
Harjot Singh from Punjab’s Barnala said people who had little luggage left for home on Thursday evening.
“Some are leaving today. Those who built large structures and had more goods will depart tomorrow,” he said before breaking into a Punjabi song as tractors passed by.
The movement of tractors in large numbers led to a heavy traffic jam, similar to the initial days of the protest when protesters poured in from different states.
The young and the elderly worked together to dismantle the sturdy temporary structures erected by them on the long dusty stretch of the Delhi-Karnal road.
Time and again, they chanted ‘Bole So Nihaal’ to pump themselves up.
Jassa Singh, 69, a farmer from Punjab’s Faridkot said, “More men means it will be over quickly. We had ample time to build them, but we leave tomorrow. Hence, the haste… I have eaten a lot of ghee in my life. My muscles are as good as those of a 30-year-old man.”
As the men bundled up the clothes and mattresses and swiftly loaded them onto the trucks, women prepared lunch and tea.
“The gas stoves and the utensils will be packed at last. We still have to cook dinner and tomorrow’s breakfast,” said Mai Kaur, 61, from Jalandhar in Punjab.
Cardboard, thermocol, iron wire mesh, PVC sheets and mosquito nets lay around the dismantled structures.
The youngsters inspected the tractors, cleaned the trolleys in preparation for the journey back home.
They stop to have lunch, or tea, or a snack and return to work.
Some farmers even donated their belongings to the needy in nearby villages.
“We have a lot of clothes and ration that could be of use to them. Earlier we were also feeding a lot of people from neighbouring areas,” said Surjeet Singh, 64, from Punjab’s Hoshiarpur.
Before setting out for their respective places, farmers clicked group pictures and shook a leg together one last time.
Many volunteers, however, won’t be leaving on Saturday.
“We have decided to stay back for some time to lend a hand to farmers who may need help in dismantling their tents and packing up belongings,” said Jasveer Singh, who managed the ‘Jangi Kitaab Ghar’ library here.
Bakshish (30), who managed the 10-bed Kisan Mazdoor Ekta Hospital, said he will start packing up only after everyone has left.
“There should be someone to cater to medical emergencies,” he said.