Lohri is a famous Punjabi winter folk festival celebrated mostly in north India, primarily in the state of Punjab, which marks the end of winter and the onset of the spring harvest season. During the festival, which is a time of joy and celebration for farmers, Hindus and Sikhs traditionally come together to sing, dance and socialize. In particular, the lighting of bonfires is a special characteristic of the festival.
On this same day one year ago, the farmers’ movement in India was at its peak. The sane farmers who usually celebrated Lohri with their families in their hometowns instead celebrated by gathering at the Delhi border where they were protesting. Lighting the traditional Lohri bonfire, they threw copies of the Centre’s new farm laws into the flames as a mark of protest against the recently-enacted legislation, shouting out slogans against the BJP-led central government and criticizing the administration for its refusal to repeal the laws. The farmers resolved to continue celebrating Lohri in the same manner, year after year, until these laws were repealed.
What exactly were the laws that these farmers were protesting? In September 2020, the central government passed a series of three agricultural bills that they argued would give farmers more options in selling their produce, free them from unfair monopolies, and lead to better pricing. The farmers, however, feared that these reforms would lead to the deregulation of crop pricing and weaken the minimum support price for government purchases of agricultural produce, thus denying farmers fair remuneration for their produce and leaving them at the mercy of large corporations. Months long standoff between the farmers’ unions and the central government ensued as farmers took to the streets in protest, with thousands camping on the outskirts of Delhi. After over a year of sustained protest in which hundreds of farmers tragically lost their lives, the Centre finally repealed the farm laws in November 2021.
While Lohri has long been primarily associated with Sikhs and farmers harvesting their crops, in the last year a new picture of the festival began to emerge—a picture of farmers from all backgrounds and religions coming together on the border of Delhi to sing and dance in defiance of the laws, to prove what their courage and determination was capable of producing. One year on, Lohri has assumed a new significance. Today, we honor the courageous farmers who lost their lives in the struggle for justice and celebrate those who returned home victorious in their fight.
[The content has been provided by the Voices of Peace team in India. The views expressed are their own.]