A day after a Dalit labourer from Sangrur died due to injuries sustained after being beaten up and forced to drink his urine, his family started a sit-in protest at the PGI in Chandigarh Sunday, while declining permission for a postmortem to be conducted till a written assurance on their demands was received from the government. In Sangrur, Dalit outfits also started an indefinite blockade of the Sangrur-Jakhal state highway in the family’s support. While the family has demanded Rs 50 lakh as compensation, the state government has offered financial assistance, job to the next of kin, and pension as per the SC/ST Act.
Jagmale Singh (37), from from Changali Wala village in Sangrur, had succumbed to his injuries on Saturday. All the four accused — Amarjeet Singh, his son Rinku, and the latter’s friends, Lucky and Binder — have been arrested. The four, all residents of the same village, had reportedly targeted Jagmale following an altercation on October 21. All of them belong to the Jat Sikh community. The four accused have been booked for murder and under the SC/ ST Act. The victim’s body, meanwhile, has been kept at a mortuary in PGIMER, Chandigarh.
Manjeet Kaur, Jagmale’s wife, said,”We want compensation worth Rs 50 lakh. The way they tortured my husband is third-degree torture. The government needs to compensate us.” Apart from compensation, the family has demanded a written commitment from the government, said Gurdeep Singh Thandiwal, nephew of Jagmale who was at PGI protest along with his maternal aunt, Manjeet Kaur. Victim’s sister, Baljeet Kaur, said that they would not call-off the protest at PGI till all their demands are met.
“The family, even after being convinced for hours, did not give us the permission to go ahead with the postmortem. Getting the postmortem done is our main focus and the doctors cannot do it without the family’s approval. We will go again tomorrow to convince the family,” said Moonak (Sangrur district) DSP Buta Singh Gill.
Meanwhile, an indefinite dharna, led by the Zamin Prapati Sangrash Committee, on the Sangrur-Jakhal road is currently underway. Victim’s mother, Bhagwan Kaur, and his three minor children are part of this protest.
Punjab Cabinet Minister Sadhu Singh Dharamsot while talking with The Indian Express said, “As per SC/ST Act we are ready to give Rs 8.25 lakh compensation, Rs 5,000 plus DA (dearness allowance) monthly pension to the widow, a government job to a family member, free education to kids at a government institution and a house or agriculture land to the family. We are in talks with the family. No doubt that it is a heinous crime and the culprits will not be spared at any cost.”
Mukesh Malaud, president of ZPSC, said,”So far the government is only giving us verbal assurances. We are aware of the compensation and other offers as per SC/ST Act, but they need to give everything in writing to the family. Government’s main focus is to get the body cremated, they go into a non-committal mode after cremation at times. Our dharna on the Sangrur-Jakhal highway will continue till our demands are not met.”
In Sangrur, Congress MLA from Amritsar (West), visited the dharna site and later met IG, Patiala range, DC, SSP from Sangrur and a few other officials. “The criminals are notorious and hence should not be spared at any cost. It is rarest of rare crime and can be compared with ‘Taliban’ torture,” he told The Indian Express. Verka was accompanied by Congress MLA Raj Kumar Chabbewal, who is also the chairman of SC/ST cell of the PPCC. While demanding that the matter be tried in a fast-track court, Verka added: “We as MLAs will try to contribute from our own funds so as to help the family with more financial support.”
Sangrur SSP Dr Sandeep Garg said, “We are taking action as per law. We will present challan in court within a week.”
While Verka said that the CM Amarinder Singh — who is on a foreign trip for 15 days — has been apprised of the situation, Dharamsot added that any additional help can be given to the family by CM from his discretionary funds.
Meanwhile, Sangrur MP and AAP state chief Bhagwant Mann condemned the incident on Sunday. In a statement, he said that he will raise this issue in Parliament and he will also meet the Home Minister over the matter. He also appealed to AAP workers to support the family’s protest.
Sunam MLA Aman Arora, added, “The incident happened on November 7 while an FIR was lodged on November 12.. this shows the callous attitude of police towards such a serious crime. Dalits were tortured under SAD-BJP rule earlier and now under the Congress rule as well.”
Arora also participated in the dharna organised by the ZPSC. On Monday, SAD’s SC cell chairman Gulzar Singh Ranike will also be coming at the dharna site.
BSP state chief Jasbir Singh Ghadi, who arranged food for the family at PGI, said, “BSP has formed a team of five lawyers to fight the legal battle for the family. The culture of rich and upper caste suppressing the poor and lower class has been going on in the country since long now, and though rules and acts have been made against it, no concrete steps have been taken….No personal matter can grow so deep that results in something so torturous “
The BSP has also demanded that the doctors of the previous hospital be suspended as they failed in detecting the infection, which spread and killed the victim. The party has also called for the arrest of accused Rinku’s mother, alleging that she was the one who motivated the family to do this.
Punjab Social Welfare Minister Punjab, Sadhu Singh and Lead of Opposition Harpal Cheema also visited the family in Chandigarh.
Sadhu Singh, talking to the family, assured them of an assistance of Rs 8.25 lakh, as per the SC/ST act but the family denied to end their protest. Cheema sat with the family for almost two hours during their protest.