They know their voices aren't as loud as some of the other protesting farmer groups. But the bunch of 40 children who reached Jantar Mantar this week hope their feeble voices too would be heard. By lawmakers sitting in the national capital's parliament just a kilometre away, bureaucrats in government buildings that dot Lutyens' Delhi and farmers back home, mulling suicide in desperation.
The children, aged between 3 and 16, lost their fathers to the agrarian crisis and represent the human tragedy behind the statistics of farmer suicides that are bandied around. Like on Wednesday afternoon, parliament was told that there were 11,400 suicides by farmers and farm labourers in 2016, down from 12,600 the previous year.
Some of the younger children, brought to Delhi by Adhartirth Adharashram the orphanage that cares for them in Maharashtra's Nashik aren't too sure what the protest is about. Manpreet Patil is one of them. The little girl, barely 8, doesn't remember when her father died and can only talk about her mother who works at a farm to get by. Another child talks about the only image that he has of his father; hanging by a tree outside his house.
Ashok Motilal Patil, 16, among the tallest in the group of 40-odd children to lose their father. Eight of them had lost both parents.
Sitting with an urn containing the ashes of Ashok Dinkar Bhawar, another farmer who killed himself in Maharashtra this month, he spoke on their behalf. "We are here to protest because our parents have committed suicide. What we have gone through, we don't want anyone else to go through," he said.
The boy said they had a message for indebted farmers too. "We want to request farmers to not commit suicide because when they commit suicide, they leave behind orphans like us," he said.
Pallavi Dinesh Pawar, 14, added it was unfair that people grudged paying farmers a better price but didn't mind tipping waiters when they went out to eat. "But they fight with farmers over 10 rupees. Farmers too have children," said the girl, who lost her father. She said he jumped into a well because he was disappointed he didn't get a fair price for his produce.
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