What is Trolley Times?
A beautifully designed and printed newspaper based in India, Trolley Times was launched in December 2020. Its aim was to promote the voices of farmers protesting at the Delhi-Haryana border against new farm laws which would among other things give more freedom to corporations to use contract farming in place of smallholder farmers. The protests saw 300,000 farmers take to the streets and block transport routes in 2020, coming together to make their opposition heard against what have been described as “anti-farmer laws” by India’s farming unions.
Assembled by a group of local writers, artists, activists, Trolley Times publishes reportage, artwork and poetry in Gurmukhi and Hindi. The name was inspired by the tractor trollies, which were repurposed by farmers as their mobile homes for the yearlong duration of the protests (they ended in November 2021 when all three farm bills under dispute were finally repealed). The first edition of Trolley Times, released 23 days into the protest, had a print run of 2,000 copies and was distributed to protestors outside Delhi. By the second edition, they were printing 5,000 copies in response to overwhelming demand.
“For those keen to understand how a protest movement grows, this is the paper to read”
Print and digital versions of the newspaper were created, so that people outside of the region could also access it. As of today, there are 22 editions of Trolley Times. They also expanded to videos of the protests, and of the people behind them. The website also contains a list of those who died during the protests.
Who’s behind it?
Trolley Times was founded by a team of seven: including siblings Navkiran and Ajaypal Natt, who were closely linked to the protest movement through their parents’ union involvement, as well as a film writer, a video director, and two documentary photo artists.
“Our intent, without malice and an ulterior motive, is to simply represent people’s voices,” the founders explain. A volunteer-run paper, the team relied mainly on contributions and their own on-ground reporting. Upon their first public callout for submissions, the team received 1,200 emails on the first day alone. “It’s impossible for us to go through all the emails… but it will be an important archive of protest literature that we can organise in the long run,” founder Ajay Pal said in 2020.
Why should you read it?
Trolley Times is a truly grassroots newspaper, highlighting the voices of farmers who are typically not given a platform to air their opinions and tell their stories. For those keen to understand how a protest movement grows, this is the paper to read.
The impact of this publication is not just local. Beyond its print readership, it has an active digital following on Twitter and Instagram, many of whom are non-resident Indians from the US, Canada, the UK, Australia and Europe. A supporter apparently printed 10,000 copies of Trolley Times and distributed it in Australia. The ongoing success of Trolley Times serves as an example of how to share accurate information and highlight important voices within a movement.
All 22 editions are available at their online store, alongside an evolving digital archive of the movement.
Nayanika Guha is a writer based in India
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