How Rakesh Tikait became the face of farmers' protest

How BKU's Rakesh Tikait became the face of farmers' protest

Rakesh Tikait, the son of legendary farm leader Mahendra Singh Tikait, is leading the protest against the three farm laws at the Ghazipur border

Bharatiya Kisan Union Spokesperson Rakesh Tikait addresses farmers during their ongoing protest against the new farm laws, at Ghazipur border. Credit: PTI Photo

Following the Republic Day tractor parade organised by farmers' unions and the chaos that ensued in Delhi, Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait was one of the leaders named in an FIR filed by the Delhi Police. The charges against him included attempt to murder, rioting and criminal conspiracy.

Two days later, visuals of Tikait breaking down at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border in Ghazipur on Thursday prompted hundreds of farmers to continue protests on Friday and Saturday.

"More farmers from western Uttar Pradesh districts will reach here. Everybody has condemned what happened in Delhi on Republic Day but now they have made Chaudhary sahab (Rakesh Tikait) cry. Unke aansu nikle hain, wo sahan nahi hoga (Farmers will not tolerate that Tikait had to shed tears)," one of the farmers at the protest site told reporters.

Rakesh Tikait, son of legendary farm leader Mahendra Singh Tikait, has been at the forefront of the protest against the Centre's three contentious farm laws at the Ghazipur border since the start. The latest build-up at the border comes on the heels of attempts to evacuate the protesters from the sites.

An influential farmers' leader, Tikait is also one of the leaders representing the farmers in the negotiations with the Cente. "I will commit suicide but won't end protest until the farm bills are repealed," Tikait said to PTI.

Read | Internet suspended at Delhi's Singhu, Ghazipur, Tikri borders till January 31 amid farmers protest

Tikait had announced a nationwide protest against the legislation on September 25, just a couple of days after two of the three farm Bills were passed in the Rajya Sabha. The farm leader, who has been part of various farmers' movement for the past 30 years, had called for a 'chakkajam' (traffic jam) during a demonstration against the farm Bills outside the Muzaffarnagar district magistrate's office.

BKU activists led by Tikait had reached the UP Gate bordering Delhi on November 28 and have stayed put ever since, demanding a 'written assurance' about the continuation of the minimum support price (MSP) system.

Tikait soon became the face people identified with the protests — addressing the press, representing the farmers and pressing for the repeal of laws. He even donated blood at the camps organised at the Ghazipur border.

Death threat

On December 26, Tikait's personal assistant Arjun Baliyan claimed that the farm leader had received a death threat on his phone. A case was registered under Section 507 (criminal intimidation by an anonymous communication) of the IPC at the Kaushambi police station and a probe is underway.

Past protests

This isn't the first time the BKU or Tikait have had a head-on collision with the Centre. In 2018, Tikait had threatened the Centre that farmers would topple the BJP in the 2019 General Elections if the promise of the MSP on the C2+50 formula at 50 per cent of the cost was not announced.

Tikait was also one of the leaders that led the 'Kisan Kranti Yatra' march with thousands of farmers towards New Delhi in September 2018 for demands of farm loan-waiver. He has also locked horns with the UP government on issues ranging from clearance of sugarcane farmers' dues to ban on old tractors.