One farmer died after being run over by a tractor and at least five police personnel were injured in Punjab’s Sangrur as clashes erupted during a protest on Monday, PTI reported.
The clashes took place when the police tried to stop protesting farmers from blocking a national highway and a toll plaza. The farmers were seeking compensation for damaged crops caused by floods.
The demonstration took place a day ahead of a larger protest called by 16 farmer unions in Chandigarh.
The farmer who died was identified as Pritam Singh, The Hindu reported. He sustained severe injuries after being run over by a tractor and later died during treatment, Sangrur Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Surendra Lamba said.
The police released a video on social media purportedly showing Singh being run over by a tractor being driven by a protestor.
However, an unidentified protesting farmer said that the police were not allowing them to cross the toll plaza and instead detained them and vandalised their tractors, buses with batons, reported BBC Punjabi.
“The police attacked our vehicles with batons, injured six of our farmers, broke legs of two farmers,” Karnail Singh, a farmer leader from the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta Azaad), told BBC Punjabi. “They also baton charged the protesting women farmers, and our fellow farmer Pritam Singh was martyred.”
Pritam Singh’s death drew criticism from Opposition leaders in Punjab. Shiromani Akali Dal leader Sukhbir Singh Badal said that a murder case should be registered against Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, as the police action was carried out on his orders.
“Senior police officers — including the Zone IG, Range DIG and Sangrur SSP — should also be charged under Section 302 [murder] for killing a farmer who was demanding compensation for crop damage,” he said.
Punjab Congress leader Partap Singh Bajwa also criticised the police action against farmer leaders in different parts of the state.
“Police brutality against farmers and innocent people of Punjab under the AAP Punjab regime today reached a new level,” Bajwa said in a tweet. He added that the onus is on Mann, who also holds the home ministry portfolio. “He must explain to the people of Punjab who ordered the police to lathi-charge protesting farmers,” he said.
Following Monday’s incident, police personnel have been deployed at the interstate borders of Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh on Tuesday, reported PTI. Security personnel have been deployed at all entry and exit points to prevent farmers from entering, the news agency reported.
Barricades have been put up while anti-riot vehicles and a CCTV vehicle have also been deployed in Punjab’s Rajpura.
Why are farmers protesting?
The farmer unions are demanding compensation for their crops damaged in floods caused by overflowing rivers.
The unions that are taking part in the protest are the Kissan Majdoor Sangarsh Committee, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Karantikari), Bharatiya Kisan Union Ekta-Azaad, Azaad Kissan Committee (Doaba), Bharatiya Kisan Union (Bheramke), Bharatiya Kisan Union (Shaheed Bhagat Singh), Bharatiya Kisan Union (Sir Chotu Ram).
The protestors have been asking the Centre to announce a special package of Rs 50,000 crore for damage caused by floods in north India, reported The Hindu. The unions are also seeking compensation of Rs 50,000 per acre for damage to crops.
Other demands include payment of Rs 1 lakh each for the loss of cattle, and the clearing of fields filled with sand by floods. The protestors have also demanded that farmers’ loans should be waived along with interest.
The farmers are also demanding long-term solutions in the form of constructing dams and ensuring adequate drainage for rainwater, especially near highways, reported The Indian Express.
“In Haryana this time, different rivers – Yamuna, Ghaggar, Tangari and Makanda – have caused floods in several parts of the state,” Jagdeep Singh Aulakh, farmer leader from Haryana’s Karnal, said. “Why is the government not taking this issue seriously? Apart from dams, the government should also make efforts to widen the rivers. For this, the affected farmers may be given compensation. Cleaning of these rivers is also equally important.”