OVER 30 people sustained injuries while 20 were arrested after a clash between two Dalit groups at Jhalur village in Sangrur district Wednesday evening. The incident happened over harvesting of paddy crop on nine acres of land reserved for Dalits.
The clash happened between a Dalit group led by Zamin Prapati Sangharsh Committee (ZPSC) and a few Dalit families of Jhalur village who are being allegedly supported by SAD leader and landlord Gurdeep Singh Babban.
Cross-FIRs have been lodged in the incident. In one FIR, 68 members of ZPSC have been booked on attempt to murder charges and under the SC/ST Act; in the other FIR lodged on similar charges, 18 people are named from the Dalit group that is supported by the landlord.
All the 20 arrested are from ZPSC group, including their leader, Balbir Singh Jhalur.
There are allegations that members of ZPSC, most of whom were from outside, arrived in Jhalur village with rods and swords and clashed with the other group. ZPSC members, however, claimed they were attacked by upper caste people when they came to drop a few of their union members at the village.
Jhalur village has a total of 16 acres of land reserved for Dalits and out of this nine acres were auctioned at the rate of Rs 31,000 per acre three months ago. One SC family, Jugraj Singh, got this land on an annual lease but the ZPSC termed it as a “dummy auction” as, according to their union leader, Gurmukh Singh, “Jugraj could not afford so much money (Rs 2.79 lakh), which means landlord Babban was behind this”.
“In this village, a total of 175 Dalit families live and ZPSC wants equitable distribution of land to all Dalit families,” Gurmukh added.
On September 30, Jugraj Singh had claimed that ZPSC members damaged his crop.
SSP Pritpal Singh Thind said, “The members of ZPSC sprayed pesticides on Jugraj Singh’s crop, and an FIR was lodged. On October 2, yet another clash happened within the village.”
Gurmukh Singh said: “We did not damage any crop and it was us who were beaten up on October 2. Yet, an FIR of theft and damage of crop was lodged against us. We have also been wrongly booked in the October- 2 clash. To protest against false FIRs, we staged a protest in front of SDM office on October 5 and, interestingly, the landlords of the village announced that whoever will participate in the dharna will not be allowed to enter the village. They also made an announcement to boycott Dalits.”
Last evening, ZPSC members were allegedly attacked by the landlord and the Dalit group with bricks and stones. Gurmukh Singh alleged that landlords went inside the houses of many Dalit families and also damaged their household articles.
DSP Moonak Akashdeep Singh Aulakh said, “All those who had a direct role in yesterday’s attack have been booked. Many others are admitted in hospital for treatment. More arrests will be made as cross-FIR has also been lodged.”