Even after the fourth round of talks between the Karnal administration and farmers’ organisations failed, Rajbeer Singh is hopeful that the administration will take action against Ayush Sinha, the Sub-divisional Magistrate accused of instigating deputed policemen with his “break their heads” remark.
Singh, in his early 60s, said thousands of farmers gheraoed the mini secretariat as their last resort because the administration did not act for more than a week (after the August 28 lathicharge on farmers). “We have never seen such a rogue official. There were many magistrates here earlier too but nobody gave such orders of breaking the heads. We know our compulsions that we cannot win over the administration with violence. Peaceful resistance is the only weapon for us,” he told NewsClick.
When asked if they think that the district administration will file an FIR against its own official, Singh said: “It may sound surprising to outsiders but this has happened here in the 80s. We were protesting and our colleague Pahal Singh died in the lathicharge. We fought a long legal battle in the Punjab and Haryana High Court and it ordered registration of FIR against the accused officials. In this matter, too, we are ready to take legal recourse and ensure that justice is delivered to our brother Sushil Kajal (the farmer who died the next allegedly due to injuries sustained during the lathicharge). Is it justice that a person has been killed and even does not get compensation?”
Asked about the Haryana administration’s proposal for an enquiry, Singh said: “What enquiry do they want to conduct when he (SDM Sinha) could be seen clearly (in the viral video) ordering to “break heads” even when the farmers did not breach the barricades. An enquiry is conducted when evidence is weak or missing. The world has seen the video. What more evidence do they want now?”
Singh added that farmers’ movement had established one thing clearly that no official could be a law onto oneself.
Sudesh Goyat, a firebrand farmer leader, told NewsClick, that farmers see the accused officer as a common person, not somebody with extra constitutional power. She said: “The law is equal for everybody. His offence cannot be defended. The gravity of the offence is such that former bureaucrats had to come out and denounce the act. The service rules clearly say that if one officer faces a law and order situation, he can give orders for shooting below the knee. What sort of language is this that policemen are told to go and “break heads”. If the Samyukta Kisan Morcha asks farmers to break the heads of (ruling) leaders, will the government not register cases against us?”
Senior AIKS leader Ashok Dhawale, who travelled from Maharashtra to take part in the Karnal protest, told NewsClick that it was highly improbable that an officer in the chief minister’s (Manohar Lal Khattar) constituency took such a harsh action and it did not have his consent.
“I have been active in farmers’ movement for past 40 years and I have never seen an official like Ayush Sinha who gave such orders. However, my experience also suggests that no government can ignore the farmers for long. When we started a March of 40,000 farmers from Nashik to Mumbai, the government said that they would not allow us to enter the city. Not only did we enter the city, the government invited us for talks and accepted our demands.”
Inderjit Singh, All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) leader told NewsClick that the incident must be looked from a common man’s perspective. “The principle of natural justice suggests that an official must be suspended before any enquiry to stop him from influencing it. Why can’t that principle be applied in the case?” he said.
Commenting on Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij’s statement of a probe before suspension, Singh said: “Entire Haryana knows that Vij has a reckless habit of suspending government employees whenever he goes on a field visit. In how many cases, did he conduct an enquiry? The entire drama of a probe is a sham. The SDM in question was ordering the policemen to “break heads” when the place was not in his own jurisdiction.”
The farmers’ struggle in Haryana has seen confrontations with government in Sirsa, Rohtak and Tohana where thousands of farmers congregated, deepening the movement locally. However, Singh has a different take on these developments. “Yes, it is true that the movement has deepened locally with these struggles but that is not our first preference. Our entire fight is focused on farm laws and the agitation on the borders of Delhi, but the Haryana government has been creating situations that become impossible to avert,” he added.
Talking to press on Thursday, Vij had said: ”We cannot hang anyone because someone says so... Is the country's IPC (Indian Penal Code) different and the farmers' IPC different? It cannot be like this and punishment is always given as per the offence committed. To find out the offence, a probe has to be conducted.”
Meanwhile, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, in a statement, said: “The (Haryana) government has absolutely no justification in saying that it cannot suspend an official. Only yesterday, it unceremoniously did so in Gurgaon. We are asking the government a very reasonable thing, to suspend the official and order an inquiry against him. The refusal of the government speaks volumes about where the officials' impunity is emerging from.”
On Thursday, the gherao of the mini secretariat continued for the third day. Thousands of farmers set up camps and tents in front of the mini secretariat. Farmers are receiving huge support from the local community, and from supporters across Haryana and India. At several locations in Haryana and other states, farmers held protests in support of the Karnal agitation, and burnt the effigy of Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar.