As the farmers expand their reach across the states, in Punjab smaller movements raising consciousness about the agrarian history of India are being dovetailed into the larger movement. As a result issues have expanded as well, from the repeal of the three farm laws to anti people policies of governments. History and personalities are also being celebrated by the farmers in more ways than one.

Women groups in the state have started making their presence felt by calling for an equal status for women in society, and speaking out against the patriarchal mindset that targets women. They vociferously oppose the language of abuse, and the targeting women as well as the farmers. The women have organised protests on this in Patiala and the Tikri border venue over the last days, and say they are planning more such demonstrations.

“We know that the status of women is not going to change overnight. But the farmers’ movement has given some space to scientific thinking and democratization.There has been perceptible anger among the masses on the way respected activists like Manjeet Dhaner and others who fought for women over the years have been targeted on the social media as well as the abuse being hurled against mothers and sisters. We find this behaviour unacceptable,” Aman Deol of Istri Jagriti Manch, the organization that has been spearheading these protests, told The Citizen.

“While earlier wars saw the victors enslaving the women of the kingdom that lost, we continue to see those in majority targeting the agitators by hurling abuses about the women related to them. We are surprised that the Women’s Commissions and Human Rights Commissions do not wake to such atrocities being committed at the level of a common man. They wake up only when there is a loud hue and cry against the abuse of law by those in majority or those in power,” she added.

Another important step at raising social consciousness is the decision of the agitating farmer outfits in Punjab to observe February 23 as the ‘Pagri Sambhal Jatta’ (Take care of your turban) Day dedicated to the memory of Sardar Ajit Singh who was the uncle of the great revolutionary Bhagat Singh and founder of the ‘Jatta Movement’ of peasants more than a century ago. February 23 is the birthday of Sardar Ajit Singh.

Jagmohan Singh Patiala of Bhartiya Kisan Union-Ekta (Dakonda) pointed out that the history of Punjab is replete with the struggles and sacrifices of common people against injustice.

Farmers have been drawing parallels between the controversial farm legislations passed by the current central government and the three ‘black laws’ that the British had promulgated against which the peasantry had risen under the leadership of Sardar Ajit Singh and Lala Lajpat Rai. Those laws were Government Land Resettlement (Punjab) Bill (1907), Punjab Mutation Land (Cultivated Land) Act Bill, Muzaria (1907), Increase in Cultivated Land Revenue in District Rawalpindi.

Jagmohan Singh said, “The song ‘Pagri Sambhal Jatta’ (Take care of your turban farmer) has become the anthem of this movement. It was written by Banke Dayal, editor of the weekly ‘Jhang Sial’.

He claimed that a large number of youngsters are joining in for the celebration of Sardar Ajit Singh’s birthday as ‘Pagri Sambhal Jatta’ Day. Posters and banners have already started dotting the protest sites across north India to mark this event.

“The 'Pagri Sambhal Jatta’ movement led by Bhagat Singh's uncle Sardar Ajit Singh is reflected in the ongoing movement against the controversial agricultural laws. Large numbers of youngsters can be seen putting up posters and banners of Ajit Singh on their tractors and as badges on themselves,” he said.

Meanwhile, All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) too came out with an interesting perspective on the great Maratha ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji on his birth anniversary that fell on February 19.

The AIKS presented Shivaji as a legendary leader and warrior king, who was accurately described by Mahatma Jotirao Phule as the 'King of the peasantry'.

A statement released by AIKS president Dr Ashok Dhawale and general secretary Hannan Mollah said, “He (Shivaji) fought against the oppressive Mughal rule but his strong secular credentials are proved by his famous letter written to Aurangzeb against the imposition of the Jizya tax. Shivaji transcended all boundaries of religion and caste and his famed army was drawn from all these sections. He was a rare king who respected women even in those feudal times.”

They pointed that 'Who Was Shivaji?', a book written by martyr Comrade Govind Pansare brings out all these aspects of Shivaji admirably. That is why the memory of Shivaji is still revered by the peasantry and the people today even after nearly 400 years.

They underlined that Chhatrapati Shivaji would have surely ordered stringent punishment to the present rulers at the Centre who have forced lakhs of farmers to stay at the borders of Delhi for nearly three months in bitter cold and rain. “He would also have strongly castigated those who have painted him in utterly false communal colours,” the AIKS leaders said.

“The current historic nationwide united farmers' struggle draws inspiration from Chhatrapati Shivaji's life and work, and from his fight against injustice, and vows to broaden and intensify this struggle until it achieves victory,” the statement added.

The AIKS has pointed that the loot and exploitation by the corporate sector and their intermediaries in the market are the main reasons for the widespread indebtedness of the peasant households and the resultant massive peasant suicides. “Every hour, two farmers are committing suicide in India and 2468 peasants per day are forced to give up agriculture,” a statement issued by the organization said.