Archive of the Month: Trolley Times: Voice of the Kisan Protests 

At MayDay Rooms we love to see libraries, archives and political emphera organised in the aid of struggle, and no recent example of this has excited us quite so much as the Trolley Times Newspaper (https://www.trolleytimes.online/)  and the Shaheed Bhagat Singh Library organised by the the ongoing Farmers Movement in India.

Since November ‘500,000 farmers and agrarian workers from different parts of India have descended upon New Delhi. They are demanding a repeal of the three farm laws recently passed by India’s BJP-led rightwing government. The protests first erupted in August of last year, when farmers and workers in Punjab started occupying and shutting down numerous railway stations and toll plazas on state highways, along with several corporate-owned thermal plants, petrol pumps, and malls. Then, a few months later, these protests scaled up, and several thousands of these farmers and workers started streaming towards the national capital. In late November, after days of pitched battles with different police and paramilitary forces, they managed to successfully occupy the highways linking the national capital to the northern states. Led by 32 farmers’ and workers’ unions, these historic occupations have quickly swelled into 10-mile-long cavalcades of 24/7 community kitchens and open libraries, film screenings and political meetings’ (From Aditya Bahl in Spectre Journal)

This months archive log will bring you some highlights from the newspaper as well as the other link to resources around the Farmers Movement.

English, Hindi and Punjabi versions of the Trolley Times can be found on their website: https://www.trolleytimes.online/

We have also archived them on our digital archiving platform leftove.rs here

Issue One in English:

The headline of the first issue is UNITE, FIGHT AND WIN! Reporting form the Singhu protest site covers the caravan of tractors from Punjab on 16th-27th November 2020 and the subsquenting shutting down of main highways that connect Delhi to Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Resuting in the slogan ‘Ghera Dalo, Dera Dalo”  (“Surround   Delhi   and   Camp   Out”)! The rest of the issue focuses on accounts from those invovled in the protests, poems and photographic accounts. The first issue had a circualtion fo around 2000 which increased to 5000 by the second issue.

Issue Two in English:

‘The front-page headline for the second edition of Trolley Times read, “O Martyrs, to complete your pending work… We shall give our heart and soul.” It featured news reports, poems, opinion pieces, personal accounts, an editorial and photographs from various protest sites, including Palwal, Singhu, Ghazipur, Bikaner, Patiala, Tarn Taran and New York. One of the articles told the story of a convoy of farmers from Kaithal, in Haryana, who, after a day of breaking police barricades on the way to Delhi, stopped at a small village, whose residents fed them and sent them on their way. While government representatives and mainstream news channels have run a sustained campaign to demonise the protesting farmers, calling them Naxals and Khalistanis, such stories of generosity and collective resolve have slipped through the cracks’ ( Taken from Caravan Magazine https://caravanmagazine.in/media/trolley-times-collective-activity-farmers-protests) 

Issue Eleven in Punjabi:

“One cannot write poems about trees when the forest is full of police.”― Brecht, Bertolt

The most recent edition is not translated into english however you can read a particulalry interesting intervention by Aditya Bahl called Between a Fort and a Highway: Where Does Power Lie? here:

It looks at strategies of blockading in successfully blocking flows of capital  In comparison to the the media’s focus on the brief occupation of the Red Fort on 26th January this year.  

 ‘It is important to note that when the protests first started in Punjab, the people immediately set up blockades at railway stations, organized sit-ins at thermal plants and grain silos, freed the toll plazas on highways, and occupied the corporate-owned petrol pumps. And these disruptions were so successful in blocking the flow of capitalism that the entire state of Punjab was brought on the verge of an electricity crisis. Later, disruptions also played a key role in expanding these protests beyond the confines of Punjab. After all, if the young farmers, workers, and students had not broken the countless barricades and pushed back the police forces, the protestors would have never been able to move towards New Delhi.  

There are, but, some crucial differences between these anti-capitalist disruptions and the decision to storm the Red Fort and hoist the Nishan Sahib. For one, this action took place in Delhi, which occupies a significant place in the Sikh political history, as the Mughal emperors, seated in Delhi, extensively persecuted the Sikh gurus and warriors for resisting their tyrannical rule. For instance, in 1675, Guru Teg Bahadur was executed by Aurangzeb in this city. Meanwhile, in 1783, the Sikh General Baba Baghel captured this same Red Fort and won the rights to build gurudwaras on key historical sites.  

However, despite these historic resonances, one must also note that Modi is not a Mughal Emperor, and that the modern Delhi is not a seat of power in the same way as the Mughal Delhi was. Similarly, the Red Fort is, at best, a key symbolic site in the Indian national imagination, where the Independence celebrations are held on an annual basis. To think that this fort forms the real locus of state-power would be overreaching, to say the least. To put it briefly, the problem with the decision to storm the Red Fort is not that it was disruptive, but rather that it did not disrupt at all. Compared to the actual disruptions happening at the railway lines, on the highways, in petrol pumps, outside the thermal plants and the grain silos, this action was, at best, a symbolic spectacle, which, among other things ended up misconstruing the nature of the power of state and capitalism that the working people are up against….

…..Meanwhile, as the people on the ground continue to overcome the current tactical limits of the struggle, one thing is clear: if the dialectic of discipline and disruption has, so far, made this movement successful, then this dialectic shall also clear a way beyond the current political impasse, and keep this working people’s struggle in chadhdi kala. ‘

  (Extract from Between a Fort and a Highway: Where Does Power Lie?) 

Please follow the Trolley Times:

Resourses and links relating to the Farmers Protest:

Thanks to Tanya Singh for guiding me towards some key resources on the Farmer’s Protests and giving her time to explain the complexities of the movement to a novice!

Overviews and articles:

The Postcolonial Autumn: Agrarian Capitalism and Resistance in India
by Aditya Bahl

Authoritarianism and resistance in India (part 1): The largest strikes in history
by Aaron Amaral & Ashley Smith

A popular upsurge against neoliberal arithmetic in India
by Navyug Gill

Kisaan Andolan and the Neoliberal Food Economy
by Amardeep Singh Dhillon (http://newsocialist.org.uk/transmissions/kisaan-andolan-and-neoliberal-food-economy/)

Left, Khaps, Gender, Caste: The solidarities propping up the farmers’ protest
by Amandeep Sandhu

Farm Protests in India Are Writing the Green Revolution’s Obituary
by Aniket Aga

The Agrarian Crisis in Punjab and the Making of the Anti-Farm Law Protests
by Shreya Sinha

India Farmers’ Protest: Peasants around the world send messages of solidarity and support
La Via Campesina: International Peasants’ Movement

“We Have To Fight”: Why It’s Women At The Forefront Of India’s Farming Protests, And How To Help
by Emily Chan

Varavara Rao in Prison: Urban Maoists and Other Enemies of the Indian State
by Aditya Bahl

Protesting farmers and Kundli workers support each other in fight for their rights
by Mandeep Punia

Rural India Online:

India’s farmers’ protests: “This is history in the making”
by Sarang Narasimhaiah & Mukesh Kulriya

Karti Dharti Magazine
A collection of ten stories of women: written, curated, edited and produced by women, for everyone!
Read the online paper on http://kartidharti.com

Talks and Discussions:

Punjabi Farmer Protests & Historic March to Delhi – A Global Perspective

Confronting Imperialism From The Grassroots with Harsha Walia

Skip to content