As a photographer who joined the farmers from his village in Punjab the first day of the farmers’ protest against the new agriculture laws, and reached Delhi after travelling for two days, Gurdeep Dhaliwal, who documented the whole route feels that art keeps the protest ‘fresh’ by bringing out new stories everyday.
For someone who studied English Literature and Creative Writing from Kingston University in the UK, and has been taking pictures and making videos at the protest sites highlighting the ‘peaceful’ aspect of the agitation, Dhaliwal, who along with Surmeet Maavi and Narinder Bhinder are in the team behind ‘Trolley Times’, has always believed in the strength of hyper-local magazines/newspapers. “When a place has it’s own magazine or newspaper, people can be kept on the same page, and that can give birth to a collective vision. Not to mention, collaborations within the population of that area. It is also an excellent ground for debates and discussions,” said Dhaliwal, who started a magazine when he was in school.
Also the co-founder of ‘Kirrt’ that documents the stories of Punjabi artisans and their artworks, the photographer feels that documentation of movements like the farmer’s agitation assume significant importance as the same preserves the memory of the place and a moment as it is. “This protest is special for my generation. I was born in the early 90’s and there hasn’t been a protest or an event of this scale since then. It has connected me to the core of what it really means to be a Punjabi. All the sentiments and energy I have been seeing in Punjabi songs and movies felt strange. Now, it seems as if that energy just needed a right channel to flow through — and the protest has provided that channel.”
Bowled over by the massive youth participation in the agitation, Dhaliwal said, “It’s simply amazing to see them working seamlessly at the protest sites, trying to make it more organised and strong everyday.”
Talk to him about the artists’ participation in the farmer’s agitation and the recent CAA protests, and he asserts, “Protests like these which go on for months. They cannot be about just sitting quietly. There has to be something that can keep the people engaged and connected. That is where art comes in. I also believe that every good artist is inclined towards truth and justice. These are the places where we find our tribe.”
While Dhaliwal may not have any plans to hold any exhibition , he does plan to continue working on Trolley Times even after the protests are over. “It was my dream to work on such a magazine and this protest has given a chance to that sewa. I hope to continue doing that as long as I can along with team members comprising a freelance journalist, a film writer, a video director, two documentary photo artists, a physiotherapist and a farmer.”