“What do you call a situation where an injured protester is denied treatment by the police, later succumbs to his injuries, and the elected chief minister defends the action ? It is plain murder which must be investigated.”
The words set the tone in a crammed room at the headquarters of the All India Kisan Sabha, where its finance secretary, P. Krishna Prasad, was addressing media persons after meeting the family of farmer Sushil Kajal. Kajal lost his life after he was beaten brutally by Haryana Police officials when the farmers had gheraoed Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar who came to Karnal to attend a meeting of the Bharatiya Janata Party on Saturday.
Prasad said Kajal's family members alleged that he was stopped by the police when his colleagues tried to take him to the hospital. "He was taken home in the absence of treatment. He was in severe pain; his body was swollen and his skin was turning blue. His friend Shakir Ali told us that he pleaded with policemen to give them passage but nobody relented. Later, we talked to the doctors and they suggested that Kajal may have died due to internal haemorrhage. Interestingly, there was no autopsy or post-mortem," he said.
"Still, the administration claims that he died from heart attack. I think it’s a joke that the people who have been elected to maintain the rule of law are the ones who are breaking it. Ayush Sinha, the duty magistrate (Karnal SDM), was ordering policemen to break heads. Later, the chief minister defended the action. Other injured farmers told our delegation that the local hospital was vacated by the police after they were given first aid treatment. This is the height of insensitivity. Despite all this, no police or administrative officer went to meet the family members. After taking stock of the entire situation, we demand an enquiry by a sitting high court judge into this murder,” he alleged.
Krishna added that Kajal was a farmer who owned about 1.5 acres of land. "His son and daughter were dependent on him. Now who will support the family? Instead of ensuring justice, the administration offered him death by complicity. We also demand that the culprits of the murder be booked under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code. We give an ultimatum till September 6. If the administration fails to take any action, there will be a repeat of Tohana – where we gheraoed the District Commissionerate – from September 7 till justice is delivered to Kajal,” he added.
Hannan Mollah, general secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha, told the gathering that CM Khattar had lost the "moral authority" to remain in power. "The body was cremated in the village without a post-mortem being conducted, on August 29. The Superintendent of Police Ganga Ram Punia has claimed the death was due to a heart attack. How can the police state the cause of death without a post-mortem? This is a purposeful act to hide the truth and protect the culprits. The BJP-led state government and the CM is shamelessly trying to protect the culprits by not ensuring a post-mortem. He has no moral authority to remain in power,” he said.
In a statement, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha – a collective of farmers’ organisations – said that condemnation meetings were conducted in Bihar’s Gaya and Sirmaur in Himachal Pradesh. It added that numerous cases were filed by the Haryana government against more than 2,500 persons in various police stations in Ambala, Yamunanagar, Kurukshetra, Karnal, Jhajjar, Sirsa, Sonepat, Kaithal and other locations after farmers jammed roads in retaliation to the incident.
According to reports, more than 12 cases have been registered in Karnal against 120 farmers and 300 unknown others. With regard to the Bastara toll plaza incident, six cases have been filed against 700 unknown persons and 91 farmers have been named.
In Sirsa, more than 100 peaceful protestors have been implicated, with cases filed in different police stations. In Sonepat, about 400 persons were named in FIRs filed in Rai Police Station. In Bahadurgarh, cases have been filed against more than 150 persons. In Ambala, cases have been slapped against 450 farmers and, in Panchkula, on around 260. In Panchkula, 80-year old Rajwinder Kaur, an elderly woman farmer, has also been named. The cases were registered in connection with the road blockades imposed by farmers in retaliation against the action.
Meanwhile, more condemnation poured in from political parties in the state. Before meeting the governor Bandaru Dattatreya, former CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda said that the government was busy celebrating while farmers were being brutalised on the streets. “Is the government celebrating the fact that it had farmers beaten up with sticks? Is the fact that farmers are sitting on the streets today a cause for celebration? Is it also celebrating the fact that today the state has a debt of Rs 2.5 lakh crore?,” he asked.