After keeping the body of 70-year-old Jaswant Singh in a freezer inside their house for eight days, the farmer’s family finally cremated it on Thursday evening at the Lehrabega village in Bathinda district. Jaswant had committed suicide inside the office of Patwari Jagjit Singh Jagga on May 11. Later, a suicide note recovered from his pocket blamed the Patwari and two others for the extreme step. Soon after villagers began a protest demanding the arrest of all three named in the suicide note.
While one accused, Tarlochan Singh — who worked as an agent — was arrested two days back, the cremation happened after Patwari Jagjit Singh and another accused Raja Singh were arrested on Thursday afternoon. The dharna was also lifted after the arrests. A year back, government had acquired about 68 kanal of land from Jaswant Singh for creation of a dana mandi (grain market) in the village. He was also promised Rs 34.4 lakh as compensation.
“Out of this, Jaswant himself was owner of ninth part of the land and the rest belonged to his sisters. However, they (sisters) had given an affidavit that the money should be given to Jaswant. At first, he was only given a cheque of ninth part of the total compensation and later even that was taken back saying that there was some discrepancy in revenue records. Later, the cheque was given to Jaswant’s relative, Raja Singh, some four months back,” said Shingaara Singh Mann, President of Bharti Kisan Union (Ugrahan), which was leading the protest in support of the farmer.
Jaswant’s sons, Gurdeep Singh and Sukhwinder Singh, said that their father kept visiting Patwari’s office for compensation due to him as he was the owner of land and not Raja Singh, but his pleas were ignored. On May 11, he visited the Patwari’s office again and committed suicide inside the office. He was rushed to the hospital, but was declared dead. Both sons said that will meet DC Diparva Lakra on Friday afternoon along with union members to seek a probe against the Patwari and also to get the compensation amount back.
Jasvir Singh of the Kisan union said,”Many other farmers had also been duped by this Patwari and after this incident, many others told their woes. We will ask the DC to conduct an inquiry against the him and give justice to farmers. Apart from the compensation amount of Rs 34.4 lakh, union members will ask for Rs 10 lakh compensation and a job to the family as well,” said Mann.
SAD ‘ignorant’ about issue
Despite having a strong base in Malwa, the Akali Dal remained ignorant of the dharna being held in the village since May 11. It released a press statement demanding Rs 10 lakh compensation for another farmer Mukhtair Singh, who had died during a May 1 rally. The statement by Rajya Sabha MP Balwinder Singh Bhunder also stated that Mukhtair’s body had not been cremated till date. Mukhtair was from Lehra Dhurkot village.
However, BKU members informed that Mukhtair’s body had already been cremated and even his family had got Rs 10 lakh compensation from district administration. SAD’s statement, however, did not mention Jaswant. Moreover, no party representative visited the farmer’s family or even attended the dharna that went on for a week.