“Hum kya karte (What could we have done)?” says the father of Gurvinder Singh, having just cremated the 18-year-old, after a second post-mortem concluded he had died after coming under the wheels of one of the cars that ploughed into protesting farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri. “Whatever the doctors have said, we have to make peace with it, because we are not doctors. But goli toh lagi thi (he had definitely been shot),” Sukhvinder Singh adds.
The 48-year-old, who owns around 4 bighas of farm land in Mohraniya Navipur village in Bahraich, says: “We saw the body and it was clear he had a gunshot injury. He had an exit wound on the back of his head and entry wound on the right side of his forehead. But the second post-mortem report also says he didn’t suffer a gunshot injury, and death was accidental. How can we believe that when all the eyewitnesses are saying he was shot by someone called Monu (Union Minister of StateB for Home Ajay Mishra’s son Ashish)? Not one, but all of them.”
While the families of the three other protesting farmers who died in the incident, involving one car owned by the Union MoS, had carried out their last rites, Gurvinder’s family had held out, demanding a second autopsy. As a team of four senior doctors flown in to Bahraich from Lucknow also said they had found no gunshot injuries, Gurvinder’s body was handed over to the family at 6 am and cremated at 9 am Wednesday.
Sukhvinder says they were only given the autopsy report after the cremation was over.
Gurvinder, the youngest of his three children, had accompanied others in the area for the Sunday protest at Tikunia, called against a visit of UP Deputy Chief Keshav Prasad Maurya. “There are plenty of villages with our people (Sikhs) around here. Everyone was going, so my son said he will go. He was a farmer’s son, so he had to go.”
Gurvinder’s brother Guru Sevak, 20, says: “His entire body had injuries. There was no part where blood was not present. He died the most brutal death.”
Demanding justice, Guru Sevak adds, “Gurvinder was very religious. He wanted to become a sadhu, and kept busy with paath (reading religious scriptures).”
Gurvinder was cremated near the family’s farm, around 300 metres from the house. At 1.45 pm Wednesday, the embers still to die, his maternal grandfather Shirinder sits silently watching, along with his uncle Jaimal Singh (75).
Shirinder, 70, says Gurvinder was “killed for no reason”. “Showing black flags has been a form of peaceful protest since before Independence. The minister and his son conspired to kill him.”
A senior police officer stationed at the village, who claimed no knowledge of the post-mortem, says the situation has been peaceful. There is heavy deployment at the village entrance to ensure law and order.
One of the three other deceased farmers, Diljeet Singh, lived around 12 km from Gurvinder’s village, in Banjaran Tada, also falling in Bahraich. On Wednesday, the family of the 35-year-old was at Tikunia, the site of an important gurdwara, for immersion of his ashes.
Diljeet is survived by wife Paramjit Kaur, 32, a daughter who is 16 and a son, 14. The son had accompanied Diljeet to the protest. His cousin Sher Singh says Diljeet’s son also “sustained injuries but is better”.
Sher Singh says they are worried about who would support Diljeet’s family. “They have no one… He was the only earning member.”