1920-2020: A village’s fight against power

1920-2020: A village’s fight against power

We arrived at the Gurdwara in the village Habri. Our convoy moved from Kaithal to Delhi via Panipat, and we stopped at Habri for langar.

We entered Haryana via Cheeka, Punjab. We could cover only 40 kilometers in one day because most of our time went into combating the violent assaults by the Haryana police. We were stopped five times on our way to Habri. Despite being hungry, we met the obstacles with courage. Most of the people in our convoy had eaten nothing since the morning tea. The members of the first trolley to stop at the gurdwara told the administrators, “Our convoy is travelling to Delhi. We want to eat”. The night engulfed the day. By now, the villagers were ready for bed. Still, the priest made the public announcement, “Waheguru, Waheguru, Waheguru! A convoy is passing through our village. It is traveling to Delhi to join the protests against the black laws which were recently passed by our government. We have to prepare food for this convoy. Come, let us all convene”.

The announcement on the speaker had barely ended when the villagers, both young men and women, started to pour in. They carried a keg of pickles, flatbread or rotis, a bucket of milk, a pot of kneaded dough, and a bowl of uncooked lentils or dal. At the gurdwara, the villagers and the members of the convoy were in high spirits. Within minutes tea, roti and dal got ready. In another few minutes, we were served food.

Meanwhile, one of the men began speaking, “This is Kartar Singh Jhabbar’s village, the one who had freed the gurudwaras from the oppression of the mahants – the traditional clergy. He recognized and helped expel the members of our community who had secretly supported General Dyer (the British colonial officer responsible for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre). He actively protested against the Rowlatt Act (the colonial laws that suppressed political struggles, like the UAPA and other laws passed by the Congress and the BJP). In retaliation, the Britishers condemned him to Kalapani (lifelong imprisonment at the islands of Andaman and Nicobar), and yet, he never lost hope. Now, once again our village is fortunate enough to have received this opportunity to join you in the protests against the ruling government. Rest assured, our victory is certain!”

Sitting on their tractors and trolleys, people raised the victory slogans. The headlights of the tractor leading the caravan penetrated into the dark of the night. And just like that, our people headed to Delhi.