Mahendra Singh Tikait was a renowned farmers’ leader of India who spearheaded several movements for rights of farmers majorly in northern India.
Mahendra Singh Tikait was born on Sunday, 6 October 1935 (age 75 years; at the time of death) in Sisauli village, located in Muzaffarnagar District of Uttar Pradesh. It is the ancestral village of the Tikait family. Tikait studied at a high school in his village till class 7 and then left studies to take charge of his responsibilities.
Height (approx): 6′ 2″
Eye Colour: Black
Hair Colour: Grey
Family & Caste
Mahendra Singh Tikait belonged to Jaat community. India Today
Parents & Siblings
Mahendra Tikait’s father’s Chauhal Singh, a farmer and the Chaudhary (head) of Baliyan Khap, died in 1943. His mother’s name was Mukhtyari Devi.
Wife & Children
Mahendra Tikait got married to Baljori Devi while he was a teenager.
They have four sons and two daughters. The eldest son is Naresh Tikait, who is the head of Baliyan Khap Panchayat and Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU).
The second-eldest is Rakesh Tikait, who is the national spokesperson of Bharatiya Kisan Union since 1997.
The third-eldest is Surendra Tikait, who is a manager at a sugar mill in Meerut, and the youngest son is Narendra Tikait, who handles the work in fields.
Baliyan Khap is a union of Jaats of Baliyan Gotra living in more than 80 villages in western Uttar Pradesh. The Khap has existed in India since the 7th century. Mahendra Singh Tikait inherited the leadership of Baliyan Khap at a mere age of 8. It was a responsibility of heading a union of Jaats of Baliyan Gotra living in more than 80 villages in western Uttar Pradesh. He was given the throne at such a tender age in accordance with a rule of Baliyan Khap that said that only elder son of Baliyan head will acquire the post after he dies. While heading the Baliyan Khap, Chaudhary Tikait contributed significantly to controlling social evils such as dowry, domestic violence, female infanticide. The hereditary title of Tikait was apparently conferred on his family by the erstwhile Jaat emperor of Thanesar Harshavardhan seventh-century. Since then, the title has been carried by the eldest son of the Tikait family.
Taking Command of BKU
Bhartiya Kisan Union or BKU is a non-political organisation that succeeded Punjab Khetibari Union (PKU), founded by Chaudhary Charan Singh in 1978. The organisation was formed on 17 October 1986 by Mahendra Singh Tikait to counter farmers’ oppression. Here is a backstory of how Charan Singh was elected as the president of BKU. In the year 1986, farmers from all over Uttar Pradesh were agitated against the hike in electricity tariffs. They also demanded waiver of water and electricity dues, higher remunerative prices for sugarcane produce, fair prices of crops, etc. The need for a peasant organisation was realised when they were unable to pressurise the state government to meet their demands. On 17 October 1986, a maha panchayat was held in Sisauli to address the issue. Several Khap heads, peasants, and peasant representatives from all castes and religions participated enthusiastically in the panchayat. Chaudhary Mahendra Singh Tikait was unanimously nominated as the National President of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU).
Tikait didn’t overnight become a messiah of farmers, he grew in stature with the relentless stand that he took for agriculturers. He spent his entire life fighting for the rights of farmers. During his tenure as BKU president, Tikait demonstrated more than 60 farmers’ movements. Here are a few major farmer movements led by Chaudhary Mahendra Singh Tikait.
Shamli Protest 1987: This was the first major protest that took place under the banner of Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU). Over 3 lakh farmers gathered in Shamli on a call of Mahendra Singh Tikait. Reason for the protest was the rise in the tariff of electricity supply to tube-wells.
The crowd at the protest site turned violent and threw country-made bombs at the police. The violence which caused the protest to end.
Boat Club Rally 1988: Whenever farmer movements led by Mahendra Singh Tikait are recalled, the October 1988 Boat Club protest comes first on the list. An entire army of over 5 lakh farmers wearing kurta-pyjama poured at Delhi’s Boat Club, Baba Tikait was a prominent face among the people leading them.
The rally which was planned for a day turned into a sit-in protest and continued till a week until the Rajiv Gandhi government bowed to BKU’s demands that included increasing prices for sugarcane procurement and a waiver of power and water charges for farmers.
Apart from the above agitations mentioned above, he successfully organised huge Kisan panchayats every year in Jantar Mantar New Delhi from 2001 to 2010 to address the various issues faced by farmers.
Naiyma Lao Movement
In August 1989, Baba Tikait initiated a movement against the kidnapping and murder of a Muslim girl, Naiyma, in Sikri village of Muzaffarnagar. Under the leadership of Tikait, thousands of farmers gathered on the banks of Ganga Canal at Bhopa, demanding to find the perpetrators of the heinous crime. The protestors also gheraoed a local police station. Although the movement continued for 40 days, the girls’ killers were never found. However, the movement helped Tikait gain a stature of a powerful secular leader. It is said that Mahendra Singh Tikait’s greatest strength was that he continued to pursue secularism till the end.
On 30 March 2008, Mahendra Singh Tikait allegedly passed a derogatory casteist remark against BSP supremo Mayawati while delivering a speech at a farmers’ rally in Bijnor. On 1 April 2008, Mayawati, who was then the CM of Uttar Pradesh, sent a team of 300 policemen to arrest Tikait under the SC/ST act. Police went to the village but could not arrest Tikait as his supporters resisted their entry. The next day, Tikait negotiated a peaceful surrender before Bijnor court and was released on bail after he issued an apology saying “My utterances were a mistake.” India Today
After a prolonged battle with bone cancer, the 75-year-old legendry Jat farmer leader Chaudhary Mahendra Singh Tikait took his last breath at 7:08 pm on 15 May 2011.
- This veteran farmer leader was also known for his simplicity, he used to sit and eat food among the farmers. Even during the movements, he used to sit among the farmers instead of the stage. Tikait would go to the stage only to deliver his speech and then return to his spot in the crowd.
- Mahendra Singh Tikait was the owner of the tremendous personality. Such was his clout that he did not need to knock on the door of government to negotiate on his demands, instead, prominent political leaders themselves used to come to him.
- Hookah was so dear to Baba Tikait that once he refused to board a flight when the executives at IGI Airport were not permitting him to carry a hookah along with him. Replying to one of the executives, he said in a typical desi style,
देख भाई बात ऐसी है, जे हवाई जहाज़ मैं होकाह ना जावेगा ते फेर मै भी ना जाऊं।
- Even after being a formidable leader in North India, Mahendra Singh Tikait chose to remain away of electoral politics.
- The poster of a film ‘Tikait: Ek Kisan Messiah’ based on Baba Tikait’s life was released on his 8th death anniversary in 2019. The film is written, produced, and directed by members of Baliyan Khap.