It has been exactly one year and a day that Gurmail Singh died during treatment at a hospital in Hisar. A farmer, Gurmail had taken ill while taking part in the agitation at Delhi Tikri’s border against the three central agri laws.
“He fell ill on November 17, 2021. The Centre repealed the three black laws two days later, on November 19. He was in such a condition in hospital that we couldn’t even tell him that his struggle hadn’t been in vain. He died on November 25,” says Gurmail’s widow Pritpal Kaur.
The 40-year-old was among 200 farmers from Kishangarh village in Mansa who marched towards Punjab Raj Bhavan in Chandigarh on Saturday to mark the second anniversary of their agitation against the agri laws.
The village has a special significance in the annals of farm movement in Punjab. The first farmer to die during the protests against the farm laws was from Kishangarh. Mukhtiar Singh (62) was killed when the bus he was traveling in with other farmers met with an accident while it was on way back from Badal village. Mukhtiar was returning from Badal village where he and other farmers, all members of BKU (Ugrahan) had been staging a dharna outside the residence of former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal over his party’s support to the central agri laws. While Mukhtar died at the accident spot, another farmer, Wazir Singh (70) succumbed to his injures on October 3.
At that time the protest against the farm laws was mostly centered in Punjab.
Gurmal was the third farmer to die during the agitation from Kishangarh, a village which was at the epicenter of the Muzara movement nearly a century ago. The Muzara movement had started in the 1930s in villages under the Patiala Riyasat in the then undivided Punjab. The landless farmers who tilled someone’s else’s land were known as muzara. The movement was launched in the 1930s for ownership rights of the land that they had been tilling for years. Four farmers were killed on March 19, 1949 during the protests. The movement bore fruit and the muzara got the ownership rights in 1952 after paying one-time compensation.
The village, home to about 6,000 people, takes pride in its heroic past, both during the muzara movement and the farm agitation. They, however, regret that no compensation has been awarded to Gurmail’s family, as was done in the case of hundreds of other farmers who died during the agitation at Delhi borders.
“His file was rejected by the Punjab government citing that he died after the laws were repealed. The government failed to take into cognisance the fact that he fel sick on November 17, died on November 25, but farmers returned from dharna site only on December 11. We have again sent his file. Let’s see how long Punjab government takes to clear the Rs 5-lakh compensation. The government job to a family member is a secondary matter,” said Kulwant Singh Kishangarh, a village resident who is also state committee member of BKU (Dakaunda).
Mukhtiar’s family had refused to take compensation as both of his sons are in government jobs while Wazir’s family had only got compensation, he added.
The villagers Kishangarh are members of three unions — BKU (Ugrahan), BKU (Dakaunda), and Punjab Kisan Union. On Saturday, farmers from the village boarded two buses and a tempo to take part in the march to Raj Bhawan.
“During the agitation against farm laws, at least 200 persons from the village used to camp at Delhi borders on any given day,” added Kulwant Singh.
Pritpal Kaur doesn’t talk about her family not getting compensation. Her only son Jaskaran Singh, who dropped out after completing class 12, now looks after family’s 6-acre farm.
As she boarded the bus, Pritpal’s priorities were clear. “More than 750 farmers sacrificed their life. My husband too died at Delhi border. The government had made several promises, but has failed to fulfill any. This march is to remind the government of that,” she said.
Meanwhile, Kulwant targeted the Aam Aadmi Party government in Punjab. “They call themselves a government of farmers and labourers. They shouldn’t force us to sit on dharnas again. They must clear Gurmail’s file now,” he added.