People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
December 24, 2006
‘Central Govt Must Intervene’
Fact Finding Team On Police Repression On Farmers
IT is over two months since the farmers of the command area of Sri Ganganagar, Gharsana, Rawla and Bikaner (Khajuwala) in Rajasthan have been demanding the implementation of the December 2004 government-farmer agreement relating to the amount of water that each stage would receive along with other issues.
The government instead of holding dialogue with the Sangharsh Samiti of farmers, workers and traders, has decided to use force to crush and repress the movement. As a result of the brutal repression, two people have already died, succumbing to injuries of police lathis and more than 200 have been seriously injured. Many are still undergoing treatment in hospitals. What is sad is that a large number of the injured have been women.
The government has thrown more than 200 people into jails of Sri Ganganagar district, among whom include the key leaders of the struggle with whom the government could have conducted dialogue on a continuous basis for resolving the issue. They have been lodged in jail sine October 8. Another person by name Anup from 17 KD village, who is suffering from a hearing and speech impairment, has also been put in jail.
The BJP state government’s actions are reminding us of the way the British colonialists treated our freedom fighters. It has not spared anybody. CPI(M) MLA Amra Ram was also arrested on October 19. The administration tried to expel him from the district as though his presence would cause disturbances. This when everyone is aware that Amra Ram has a track record of never instigating violence. He was one of those who led the sit-in struggle of 50,000 farmers in Jaipur for over a week in the past, and not a single problem relating to law and order occurred.
Former MLA Sohan Naik, who was one of the leaders to negotiate on behalf of the agitating people with the government, was shocked when his house was raided on November 1. He was to leave for Jaipur the next day for the talks. When he asked the police as to why this was done he was told that they suspected some leaders of the agitation to be hiding in his house. As a result of this raid, he could not attend the talks.
A team of seven leaders and activists of various mass organisations – Sawai Singh, Sumitra Chopra, Nisha Sidhu, Asha Klara, Harkesh Bugalia, Sanjay Madhav and Kavita Srivastava – visited the area and saw the situation of violation of human rights in this matter.
The following is the text of the report made by the delegation on this issue:
CALLOUS ATTITUDE OF THE STATE GOVT
IT is a shame that a democratically elected state government publicly declares that it will crush a movement and will deal with the people with brute force (news reports of October 8-9, 2006). The Sri Ganganagar district administration led by collector Kunji Lal Meena and SP Vinita Thakur have decided to implement this diktat with such fervour that raids are being conducted by the police in villages as if they are on a mission to arrest terrorists. Many of their actions are clearly vindictive, which we will explain later.
The Hanumangarh SP Prem Singh Chundawat decided not to be left behind in the use of brute force. On learning that the talks of November 2 have failed, the police lathicharged a peaceful meeting of protestors in Chaiya, Rawatsar on November 3. Three people, including a woman, have been seriously injured. The eyewitnesses told us that the people kept appealing to the police not to carry out any provocative act. However, the police came lathicharging the people in order to arrest three leaders, including one elected representative Balwan Punia, zilla parishad member.
The manner in which the Sri Ganganagar police carried out a lathicharge on the protestors on October 16 was also unwarranted. Video footage explicitly shows how the police carried out vindictive action on the people. Chandu Ram of 10 LM village died due to injuries sustained in this police brutality on October 24. But the injuries on the bodies of AIDWA general secretary Durga Swami, AIDWA vice president Gomti and those on Laxman and Birju of 15LM village also expose the inhuman actions of the police.
THE DEATH OF CHANDU RAM
The manner in which Chandu Ram’s body was kept in a state of indignity because of the government’s stubbornness of putting conditions against the people’s demand of providing same compensation as that was granted to the deceased of agitators in 2004 and 2005 in Gharsana and Sohela respectively, shows up the completely insensitive nature of the government. We spoke to the district collector that his role was one of mediation between the people and the government, instead of adding fuel to the fire. We felt that he and the SP had a personal agenda of keeping the issue unresolved so that the agitators would be demoralised. We condemn this attitude.
SOME TESTIMONIES OF THE VICTIMS
The raids conducted in the villages of Sakhi, 17 KD and 12 KND are indeed shocking. When we visited 17 KD on the evening of October 29, we could not believe what the tearful women told us. It is well known that even the most repressive powers are willing to come to a truce during festival time and during mourning period but not the Sri Ganganagar police.
Just on the eve of the festival of Diwali, on October 20, more than 400 policemen in 12 vehicles entered the village at the crack of dawn and raided many houses when people were in their sleep. This raid was carried out on the instructions of the SP and the marks of the brutal raid stand out even today.
A case of abortion due to terror and fear:
We met Anju Vishnoi, a 20-year old woman who was in bed recovering from a miscarriage that happened on October 20. According to her, she was asleep that day. Suddenly, the firing in the air woke her up and she could see people running helter-skelter. She could hear women and children screaming: “Save me! the police is beating me! “the police is taking me away!” etc.
In this mayhem she could not see her father and brother and feared that the police would take them away too. Deep fear set into her. As soon as she saw a hand grenade fall into her house, she was terrorised. She went towards the gate of the house. And as she saw the police swarming outside the streets of her house, she collapsed at the gate itself out of fear and terror. When she woke up she found herself on a bed with a drip attached to her wrist. She knew that she had lost her child at that moment when she had a fall. She could not hold back her tears when we met her.
Jailing a speech and hearing impaired adolescent:
The story of Sahab Ram Vishnoi’s family was equally tragic. We met his wife Bhagwanti. She found her sitting outside her house in a state of deep distress. Two of her sons, Sanjeev Kumar and Anup, had been arrested and taken away. But she was most worried about her younger son Anup who had a hearing impairment and had been brutally assaulted by the police and taken into jail. The police abused her heavily. They did not spare her daughter-in-law also. According to Bhagwanti while she tried to prevent the police from taking her son Anup, she was also beaten up. She said that the police did not even spare the cow that was standing in the yard. They slashed the udders of the cow and even broke the beds. The police behaved very badly under the instructions of Diksha Kamra the DSP who accompanied them.
Polit lathicharge a full-term pregnant woman leading to labour pains and premature delivery of a child
The worst anguish was that of the family of Ladu Ram. Not only were his two sons, Satpal and Radhey Shyam, taken away by the police but his wife Rameshwari was admitted in PBM hospital with serious injuries on her back due to police atrocities. She died on November 1. Her daughter Sumita, who had her labour pains soon after the police beatings during the raid on their house, delivered a premature baby that day itself.
A grieving Sumitra was in no condition to even talk. She was lying down next to her newborn baby. She told us that when the police entered their house to arrest her brothers, she was pushed by them and had a fall. She immediately went into labour. The mother was beaten on her back by the police and she fell on the ground. She could not be admitted to the hospital the same day as Sumitra delivered her child and needed support. The mother was admitted later. Draupadi, wife of Satpal, told us that the policemen slapped her twice and pushed her on to the ground. They also in anger broke the matkas of the house with their sticks.
Beating of children
We met the children of Mahiram in the next house who were still in deep fear. His daughter Priyanka who studied up to the 10th standard told us that when the police came that morning she and her sister and a friend from the neighborhood rushed to the terrace as the police chased them. Out of fear they jumped from the terrace into the compound of the neighbours. The policeman who had chased them got his leg caught in the broken part of the terrace and then in anger returned back to the front of the house and broke the door. Priyanka’s 80-year old grandfather Kanhi Ram who was sleeping outside also got a blow on his leg by the policeman. He showed us his injuries, which included bruises and cuts.
Beating of Women
In the house of Seth Ram Swaroop, many women had gathered. The sethji had been arrested by the police party on October 9. Roshni, his wife, told us that the police after having arrested her husband came again on October 20 and beat her and her children. She told us that she had just made tea and was stepping out of the house when the police came and hit her on the head and hands. Her children also showed us several injuries they suffered due to police beatings.
Firing of Tear Gas shells on women
We also visited the house of Kalavati who had become the symbol of the police atrocities in 17KD. Kalavati had received severe burn injuries when a tear gas shell had burst inside her house and had fallen on her chest. She had been admitted to the PBM hospital in Bikaner. We saw bullet marks in one corner of the courtyard of the house. One of the doors had also been broken down and there was a big mark of shoe on the door, which showed how the police had tried to kick the door open. The women complained of the many abuses that were showered on them by the police.
When we met the collector and SP and asked them as to why they used such brute force? The SP told us that the police had to use tear gas shells as the women had caught many policemen by their collar. When we commented that the entire style of police operation was such as adopted in an insurgent area, they replied that the police has the powers to commit arrest at any time on any day if it so chooses.
The chief minister is apathetic to people’s issues and she has all the time for world-class cricket and walking on the ramp in Bangalore displaying fashionable clothes. But she has not made herself available to the protesting farmers even after two deaths occurred due to the brutal repression of Rajasthan police.