Updated: October 29, 2021 9:37:10 am
Three women farm protesters were killed while two more suffered injuries after a truck allegedly mowed them down in Bahadurgarh on Thursday morning. Police said the incident took place at 5.45 am when a group of protesters — seven women and a man — were waiting for an auto to reach Bahadurgarh railway station.
According to police, the protesters were sitting on a divider below Jhajjar flyover near Pakoda Chowk when the truck, allegedly coming at high speed from Jhajjar side, jumped on the divider and crushed them before coming to a halt after hitting a large rock. The driver left the vehicle and fled and was arrested later.
The victims have been identified as Amarjeet Kaur (51), Gurmail Kaur (65), and Sukhwinder Kaur (55). The two injured women, Gurmail Kaur (60) and Harmeet Kaur (56), were rushed to civil hospital in Bahadurgarh. Gurmail Kaur suffered a fracture in her leg and was referred to PGI Rohtak, where her condition is said to be serious, said police. Harmeet Kaur was admitted to civil hospital and her condition is stable. Two more protesters, Hamir Kaur and Jagtar Singh, sustained minor bruises.
All of them were from Khiva Dialuwala village in Punjab’s Mansa district and affiliated with Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan). Farmers said the group had come to the Pakoda Chowk protest site 10 days ago and had been staying in tent number 170 at the bypass. They were supposed to catch a train at 7.45 am as per a change of roster of duties.
Police said the accused, identified as Mangal, a native of Alipur village in UP’s Aligarh district, is a resident of Delhi’s Karala. He had been driving a 2011 model truck for a Delhi-based transporter since September 18. He got Rs 6,000 a month and Rs 1,000 each for one round of transporting building material.
Superintendent of Police, Jhajjar, Waseem Akram, said, “During preliminary questioning, the driver said he spotted the victims very late and tried to hit the brakes, which did not work properly. He claimed to have been driving at a speed of 15 km/hr. He said he left Dadri at 3 am and that he covers the same route daily. He said he did not see the divider in the dark and claimed he was continuously driving and did not stop. We are verifying the claims. Prima facie, it appears to be an accident.”
The survivors, however, alleged the ‘accident’ was planned and part of a conspiracy to derail the protest.
Harmeet Kaur, who suffered injuries to her leg, head and left arm, told The Indian Express that the truck had been parked a few metres from them. “Since we were sitting on the median, we assumed it would just drive by. But it picked up pace as it drove towards us and suddenly changed direction, crushing the women. This is a deliberate attack. There was enough space on the road,” she alleged.
Jagtar Singh, who was standing across the road, said, “I tried running after the driver but there was so much chaos. We rushed everyone to the civil hospital. Two women died on the spot. A third died while she was being taken to another hospital.”
On Thursday, farmer organisations and victims’ families refused to get an autopsy done, demanding an enquiry into the incident. A delegation of BKU Ekta Dakaunda met SP Jhajjar on Thursday afternoon to discuss the matter. In a statement, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha also demanded “an impartial and thorough probe to rule out foul play”.
Outside Sector 6 police station, Buta Singh Burjgill, Punjab president BKU Ekta Dakaunda, said, “… “In recent weeks, there have been several incidents which raise certain doubts. We have asked the SP to conduct an enquiry — who is the driver and if he had any political links. If it is clear this was a simple accident, then we will allow a post-mortem tomorrow. We will decide the next course of action after a meeting.”
Police said the truck owner is a resident of Kanjhawala village and has been working to supply building material to Delhi for several decades. “He has denied any links with politicians, as was being rumoured,” said the SP.
Police recovered audio recordings of two calls made by the driver to the vehicle owner at 5.59 am and 6.02 am, in which he allegedly said he fled after the accident as he feared being caught. An FIR was registered against him under IPC sections 279, 304-A, 336 and 337, said police.
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