An unusual harvest of farmers’ protests

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A lot has been said, reported and conveyed about the ongoing farmers’ protest and the potent issue has the social media network deeply polarized. However, the same protests have also created an unusual bonding between the people, the art, music and culture of Punjab, which has not been witnessed in recent history.

As a matter of fact, the entire creative matrix has seen a major shift, which was always wished for but seemed like an impossible task to achieve.

The same lyricists and performers, who were earlier widely criticized for the objectionable content in their songs and videos, came up with exceptional tracks supporting the farmers’ movement, receiving global appreciation. Popular singers, who were perpetually engaged in Youtube sparring and catfights, were seen working in tandem, serving food and other articles to protesters.

This time the audience comprised millions of youngsters who were spending cold and bleak nights in the trolleys, sprawled on the roads, contributing their bit to the protests. The legends of the past as well as the present, from both Punjabi music and cinema, addressed and inspired the farmers, coming out of their respective shells. And the industry, which was known for its deep schisms, rallied together for a collective cause.

Another positive outcome is a bi-weekly newspaper started by a team of talented youngsters with their limited resources. Started to counter fake news and rumors, the newspaper also aims at stringing together all protest venues and groups, scattered across many kilometers in the outskirts of Delhi. Interestingly, here too, it has a deep-seated link with Punjabi cinema.

The newspaper is titled Trolley Times and the name has been given by Surmeet Maavi, the man behind the dialogues of many successful Punjabi films, including ‘Shareek’, ‘Sardaar Ji’, ‘Uda Aida’ and the National Award winner ‘Punjab 1984’. Maavi has been camping at the protest venues for days along with the other founder members of the team led by Navkiran Natt (a dentist), Jassi Sangha (writer-filmmaker), Jasdeep Singh, Gurdeep Dhaliwal, Ajay Paul Natt and many other prominent scholars and historians who have contributed to the content of Trolley Times.

As a four-page newspaper, with three pages in Punjabi and one in Hindi, its first issue was released on December 18 with 2000 copies reaching every trolley and tent at the protest venues. Focusing on news, important updates/announcements and inspiring stories of farmers, it also features poetry and other artistic expressions of the contributors.

Reportedly, the response was overwhelming and the demand was much more than anticipated. As a result, a downloadable PDF file of the newspaper was made available online, through which many volunteers distributed its Photostat copies in their circles. Now it has a Facebook page, a Twitter handle and a presence on the internet, too, as a dedicated website.

Increasing its circulation by and by, Trolley Times is surely a rare and unique experiment in these tough times, creating its own space in Punjabi/Hindi literature. But then, nothing can be said about its future which hinges on the protests, the results of the ongoing talks with the government and the contours of the movement.

However, one conclusion can surely be drawn: these protests have brought a major change in the way Punjabi music, poetry, cinema and literature was being conceived and critiqued in the past, and it is surely going to be a completely different and new era hereafter, reviving the lost spirit of togetherness.

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