The Samyukt Samaj Morcha (SSM), a political front launched by 22 farmer unions last year, has fielded a young Delhi University assistant professor as its candidate from the Sri Muktsar Sahib constituency in Punjab.
Anuroop Kaur Sandhu, an assistant professor at Shri Guru Tegh Bahadur Khalsa College, chronicled the deaths of more than 700 farmers during the farm protests through her blog ‘Human Cost of Farmers Protest’. She is also pursuing an M.Phil in Comparative Indian Literature from DU.
The 29 year old is currently canvassing in the constituency for the February 20 election.
The SSM, headed by Balbir Singh Rajewal, has announced 47 candidates for the 117-member Punjab assembly. Its constituent farmer bodies were part of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), which spearheaded the year-long farmers’ agitation against the three central farm laws on Delhi’s borders.
Also read: Explained: Understanding the new farm laws and farmer protests in India
Sandhu is looking forward to make her electoral debut for the fledgling outfit, and is on leave. “I am working out technicalities as whether I should resign [from the college teacher job] or not because I am not on regular rolls and have this job on ad hoc basis,” she said. “I am waiting for the management’s decision on this. Hence, as of now, I am on leave.”
Sandhu, who belongs to a farmer’s family, is from Kanianwali Village in Muktsar District. “Until Class 10, I studied in Muktsar. I studied in a convent school in the city where I used to commute daily from my village by a school van,” she told The Indian Express. “I did my Class 11 and 12 from Mussoorie and later got admission in Delhi University for BA and for my MA in English. I worked briefly in 2017 in a Chandigarh college as well, and since early 2018 I have been working in Delhi while also pursuing my MPhil in comparative Indian literature from DU,” she said.
It was during the farm agitation that Sandhu got in touch with the SKM and started visiting the protest site on Delhi’s borders. “I even started a blog on the human cost suffered in the course of farmers’ protests in which I tried to compile deaths of all those who died during the agitation,” she said.
“The SKM has been using that data. I also created awareness on social media about their agitation and did my best to help them in mobilising funds. But compiling data of people who died was a major project which I undertook. After the dharna was lifted, I was ready as a volunteer for the SKM and when some farmer unions of Punjab decided to contest polls, I was willing to work as a campaigner or to do whatever task they assigned me. I applied for my candidature from Muktsar and was overwhelmed when they nominated me as the candidate.”
Recalling her family’s solidarity with the protesting farmers, Sandhu said: “When farmers used to sit on hunger strike at Singhu and Tikri, my parents used to do hunger strikes in their home in Muktsar. I am from a family of activists and hence my parents always encouraged me to do something for a cause. One year of farmers’ protest deeply touched me… on how people were made to live on the roads… the human cost involved. I had thus made up my mind that I will not sit back quietly after the morcha ends.”
Sandhu knows she is up against some political heavyweights. “I am a novice in politics but I have a passion to bring a change in society and I am confident that I will make an impact on mainstream politics,” she said. “I think I will win but even if I don’t win, a resounding message will be sent across that everyone will be held accountable if people don’t like their work.”
Sandhu’s younger brother and elder sister are in Australia, but her parents are supporting her campaign. Her family had about three acres of farmland in Kanianwali Village, which they sold off as they shifted to Muktsar City.
Her father Gurshinder Pal Singh Sandhu, 61, who believed in providing best education to his children, said: “I am here to support my daughter. I am so proud that she decided to contest the election. I am also happy that she contributed to the Kisan aandolan [agitation] all along.”