When over 30,000 farmers across Maharashtra started their walk from Nashik, they were perhaps not prepared to walk a stretch of over 180 kilometres, but they were ready.
The crowd had young and old peasants, men and women—halting along the roads, stopping to eat together, sleeping under the open sky, some of them played the drums while some sang folk songs—but they kept marching, wearing red caps and carrying red flags, for four days, in the scorching heat till they reached Mumbai to knock on the chief minister’s door. And, many of them walked bare feet.
The ‘Long March of Farmers’, steered by the Maharashtra unit of the CPM’s farmers’ wing, the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), is the latest in a string of farmers’ protests Maharashtra has seen in a year. They are demanding a complete loan waiver, remunerative prices for agricultural produce and implementation of Swaminathan Commission recommendations among others.
As they continued their walk, pictures of their feet began to flood our social media timelines.
Broken glass gave her a cut on left foot. But still she walked in a long march after covering the wound. Farmer's & Adivasi's are determined to reach Mumbai Vidhanbhavan from Nashik to Mumbai Long March 180km.. #आक्रोश_बळीराजाचा pic.twitter.com/KCXX8FBHNK — The Great Dictator.! (@tittoantony) March 10, 2018
The feet that traversed 200 kilometres from Nashik to Mumbai! Nothing can fail them! #KisanLongMarch reaches Mumbai city. #आक्रोश_बळीराजाचा pic.twitter.com/YrWdg3G8tn — Suvarna Haridas (@HaridasSuvarna) March 10, 2018
#FarmersMarchToMumbai This Long March Farmers movement canNOT be ignored! The bare-foot walking 180-200kms while the likes of LaMo, ViMa, NiMo & others are SCOOTING comfortably! pic.twitter.com/f7Sesc21lv — Desi PoliTicks 🇮🇳 (@DesiPoliticks) March 12, 2018
The feet that traversed 200 kilometres from Nashik to Mumbai! Nothing can fail them! pic.twitter.com/PHYHh1kXX5 — Frankie (@FrankieMendonca) March 10, 2018
The hammer and sickle flag that thousands of them carried didn’t get to become the symbol of their hardships and their resilience. It was their bare-feet, injured, blistered, bleeding and bandaged.
A 74-year-old farmer who had swollen feet and bruises on his legs said that he has been popping painkillers for three nights to make him numb to the pain. But there was no giving up. “This pain is much better than the threat to my livelihood. If we don’t do this (participate in the farmers’ agitation), our next generation will suffer like us,” he said.
And soon, people started paying tribute to those injured feet.
A Malayalam Facebook page shared a picture to symbolize the torn, blood stained slippers.
“Thirty thousand names who started the agrarian strike has gone over lakhs ... The biggest farmer's drive to see India…They are fighting to die, This fight will not fail…” they wrote.
The protest has come at a time when the country is witnessing rise in farmers' suicide. According to the Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, between 2015 and 2016, nearly 12,602 farmers have committed suicide. And amidst all of this, it was the broken chappal that showed the poverty and the desperation of the farmers.
Meanwhile, Mumbai came together, and lined up the roads to welcome the farmers and feed them. At major junctions on the highway, residents came out to supply them with water. When the protestors reached Mumbai, many groups distributed water, poha and biscuit packets. A Sikh group arranged free food for them.
The Maharashtra government has promised to meet the protestors now, their injured feet will be etched in our minds.