Ten months down the line, as farmers continue to protest against the three contentious Central farm laws among other things, the brutal lathi-charge by the Haryana police on the Karnal Road toll plaza Saturday left several farmers injured. One farmer reportedly died later, with his family alleging that it was because of injuries he received during the lathi-charge. The officials have denied this.
On August 28, the farmers had congregated at the plaza to protest against Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar who was attending a meeting in the region. After being stopped from proceeding further, the farmers were instructed to stay on the plaza post, where they were later lathicharged. Disturbing and graphic videos of the crackdown have shown grave injuries being inflicted on the protestors. Even a video showing a sub-divisional magistrate ordering that “heads be smashed” went viral.
The following day, a 55-year-old protesting farmer, Sushil Kajal, was found dead in his home. Reportedly, he had been beaten up by the police.
The administration has said that Kajal's death had nothing to do with the crackdown at the plaza. However, his relatives allege that he succumbed to internal injuries and have questioned the apathy shown by the police force.
The Haryana Police on Sunday said that reports of a 55-year-old farmer dying of a heart attack due to injuries received during force used by police are false.
Ganga Ram Punia, Superintendent of Police (SP), Karnal, said: "He (farmer) didn't visit any hospital. He went home in a stable condition and died in sleep. Some are saying he died due to a heart attack. Reports of him dying due to injuries received during force used by police are false."
However, the administration's version is being questioned by many as it absolves the state forces of any accountability, with Kajal’s kin terming it a blatant lie.
Speaking with NewsClick, Sudesh Devi, wife of the deceased, said: “He was badly injured, we could not take him to hospital as all roads were closed. We did the first aid and thought we would take him in the morning. The lath-icharge on that day took place over six times which is when he suffered from the injuries. This is not just our story--this has not happened to only us, over 600 farmers have lost their lives amid the (prolonged) protests. To the government these are just numbers--only we know the value of their lives.”
Surender Singh, a friend of the deceased farmer and a resident of the village, said: “One person was beaten by four-five security personnel. This was not a heart attack; he (Kajal) does not have any medical history. They are trying to absolve themselves of responsibility. Many were left injured and were chased by the forces until they reached their fields. This was a massive pushback.”
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), the farmers' body that is spearheading the protests,, slammed the Haryana police for their “brutal actions”.
The violence led by the state authorities has also triggered unions to send increased participation to protest against the farm laws to Delhi. The Kisan Sangharsh Committee (KSC) has announced that it would send two large groups to the Delhi border on September 5 and September 15. Unions are also conducting protests condemning the ongoing violence against the farmers.
Several farmers found themselves badly injured after the lathi-charge. Gurjant Singh, a young protestor, suffered an eye injury and says he is now having trouble with his vision. Speaking with NewsClick, he described how the situation unfolded on the ground. “CM Khattar was to come to Karnal-- we had decided that we will show black flags to the BJP leadership until the three farm laws are repealed. The SDM had also threatened the farmers. We had told the administration on the toll plaza that we do not want the meeting to proceed. While we protested at the plaza, they sat us down and unleashed a brutal lathi-charge on us,” he said.
"The SDM says that if anyone moves forward their heads should be broken. This happened the day Narendra Modi inaugurated the Jallainwala Bagh memorial site. On a day when the brutal General Dyer had fired onto innocent crowds, the forces unleashed violence on us,” Gurjant added.
A viral video of the SDM Karnal, Ayush Sinha, shows him ordering his officers to “break heads” of the farmers. After witnessing widespread anger against the Haryana administration, Deputy CM Dushyant Chautala condemned the 'break heads' direction of Sinha. He assured that his government will take action against the SDM.
Over 400 farmers have lost their lives since the protests began nearly 10 months ago. The figure also includes 31 protesters who committed suicide over the farm laws. The SKM, which collated this data, said that nearly three deaths took place every day. They added that while farmers from several states have died during this protest, 87 per cent of the reported deaths are from Punjab.
Commemorating the 10th month anniversary of the protests, the SKM has called for a Bharat Bandh on the September 25.