The sky had been overcast all day in Gharachon village, in Punjab’s Sangrur district. It was cold and by evening, it started to rain. None of that deterred Gurmail Kaur, as she prepared for the “Chalo Dilli” rally for the next day—an “onwards to Delhi” march called by farmers’ organisations of Punjab, to protest the three farm laws recently enacted by the Narendra Modi government. The plan was to reach the capital on 26 and 27 November. Gurmail was around eighty years old and as she packed a small bag, she smiled and said, “I am prepared to die for our land.” The bag contained one change of clothing, a yellow chunni, or scarf-like throw, a towel, a toothbrush, toothpaste and a blanket. She told me that she used to step out of the house only for marriages and mournings, that too with her family. This was the first time she was joining any movement.
“I used to get out of the house in a veil. Then veils went out of fashion; I never got rid of my chunni. Now, I don’t care about this chunni anymore. I do not like my house anymore. I do not belong inside even after we win this fight against Modi,” she said. A picture of her son, in the uniform of Punjab Police, hung from the wall. He died twenty years ago.
Over the next two weeks, as protesting farmers blockaded Delhi’s borders with Haryana at Singhu and Tikri, Gurmail became a regular sight at the protest site in Singhu.A few days later the group of women including Gurmail Kaur returned to Punjab and started participating in the protest at Kalajhar Toll Plaza.Hoping for a revolution, Pash, who is often quoted at these protests, had written, “I wanted to write a poem you could read for the rest of your life.” I thought of these words often while speaking to the protesting women of Punjab—especially Gurmail, the 80-year-old from Gharachon. On 8 December, she suffered a sudden cardiac arrest and died at the protest site at the Kalajhar Toll Plaza on NH7.
The author of this article is Sangeet Toor. This article has been published in the Trolley Times Vol-1
The translation of this article from Punjabi to English has been done by Navdeepkaur Waraich.