It has been almost a year since farmers of the country scored a major victory for the people's movements, when the Central government was compelled to withdraw the three Farm Laws. However, now there are forces and processes at work in Punjab that are generating confusion in the social domain and adding to the prevailing chaos.

Yet the positive aspect is that the people of Punjab are aware of the emerging challenges. The citizens are not shying away from engaging with the forces that are working against the interest of the masses.

This was on display at the annual event of 'Mela Gadari Babeyan Da', a fair held in the memory of the Gadarites. It is held from October 30 to November 1 at Desh Bhagat Yaadgar Hall in Jalandhar and is seen as the social and political barometer of Punjab. It is a must visit for anyone interested in identifying the social or political mood of the state.The event is organised by progressive forces, and visitors come from all over Punjab, its neighbouring states and the national capital as well.

On one corner of the event are rappers singing about the violence unleashed against the marginalised and women, on the other side seminars and discussions on the all important concerns of the agrarian society are held. Artists perform the plays highlighting the social, economic and political challenges. But most important is the book exhibition where people from all walks of life throng, to purchase and discuss books. The public mood can be ascertained from what they are reading.

This time around there was a greater response from the visitors, which analysts interpret as growing concerns about the social issues. "The more people read, the more they will stand up against hate and divisiveness being spread by the anti people forces," observed a visitor at a book stall.

The attendance was a bit thin last year as farmers and their supporters were still camping at Delhi's borders during the people's movement that was led by the farmers. But this year everyone is attending the fair and are vocally expressing public sentiments. There were more than a hundred publications exhibiting books to satiate the intellectual cravings of the readers across age groups.

There has been a growing concern among the people over the radical elements being allowed a free run to spread their ideology by the powers that be. A question being raised is why the regime that detains activists and journalists over mere 'apprehensions' is silent when radical elements talk freely about 'slavery', 'sacrifice' and 'separatism' right under its nose?

There is a deep interest and curiosity with regards to events that led to the dark days of the 1980s. People are discussing the forces and processes responsible for incidents of desecration of holy texts over the last seven years, and the latest attempts to polarise the society on communal lines.

"People do not have any faith in the political class. They look at them with mistrust and scepticism. They hate the insensitivity of the ruling class. To make things worse, it is the campaigns on social media by paid media and stooges that are adding to the distrust," explained Swaran Singh of Bibekgarh Prakashan of Anandpur Sahib.

He pointed towards a copy of the published report of the Justice Ranjit Singh Commission that had probed the incidents of sacrilege during the regime led by Captain Amarinder Singh. He said that there is a renewed interest in books on the 1984 Sikh Genocide,.

Talking about the things lying scattered after the farmers' movement and the emerging social scenario, eminent economist and activist Navsharan Kaur told this reporter, "Punjab is a very important case. The most interesting thing is that the masses here are engaging with the issues.

"The powers that be have resources, money and arms with them. But the people have their own solidarity networks like the unity shown by the farmers. They know that the seeds sown of divisiveness need to be confronted and they are ready for that.

We do not have any other option in the face of the divisive agenda, the pulverising of the rights of the people. The people have engaged with power, whether it was the Shaheen Bagh protests or the Kisan movement."

She explained that people interpret things right from events before 1947 and Partition. They analyse what forces of division eventually caused and what all that led to. This was not the Azadi that had been visualised.

When asked where she saw things heading to, she said, "It is a contested terrain. There is separatism, divisiveness and targeting by the powers that be. We have movements and networks hammering the agenda of solidarity. We are not going to surrender."

Vijay Bombeli, one of the organisers of the event said, "this year our focus was on loot and plunder of natural and other resources. We had asked the publishers to bring more literature on the subject. The discussions revolved around how the democratic rights of the people are being attacked.

"Another focus was on preserving the diversity of the country. When we talk in the context of Punjab one needs to understand that even nature has given us five different seasons and rivers. There is diversity even in nature and any attempt to do away with it in society is unnatural."

An interesting visitor to the fair was Baljeet Kaur who is in her twenties. She had brought along 15 girls who reside in a colony of Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) in Ludhiana so that they could explore the world of books away from the small library that she runs for the children there.

"Books give them energy to fight and become better human beings. It is very important to promote reading among these children as the mass media has nothing to offer them," she said.

Raj Kumar Bharat who had come from Varanasi while pointing towards the present lull after the farmers' movement said, "things are not stagnant. Only the acts were repealed while the issues of the farmers remain where they were.

"It needs to be understood that no matter which party is in power, the present economic policies will continue. It is not a fight against a party or the government but the corporates that have come to control the resources. These parties get their donations and what follows is there for everyone to see."