A DAY after leaders of 28 farmer unions of Punjab boycotted a meeting with the agriculture secretary in Delhi, former Union Minister Vijay Sampla faced protests by farmers near Mahabadhar village of Muktsar, where he had gone to meet a Dalit youth who was allegedly tortured by upper caste men. While Muktsar police said Sampla and his supporters were escorted out of the area and no one was arrested or detained, the former Minister, while speaking to The Indian Express, claimed he was detained by police and taken from the protest site to Adampur in their vehicle.
Sampla was on his way to Chak Janesar village of Jalalabad constituency in Fazilka district to meet Dalit youth Gurnam Singh, who was allegedly tortured by upper caste men of the same village and forced to drink urine. However, 10 km from the village, farmers sat on dharna on the main road and did not allow his vehicle to go ahead, due to which Sampla along with his supporters also sat opposite the dharna, calling the protesters ‘Congressmen’ and ‘anti-Dalit’. The confrontation continued for about two hours and Sampla also went live on his Facebook page during this episode a number of times.
Speaking to The Indian Express, he said, “Congressmen are defaming farmers. They are staging protests and attacking our leaders. I had to meet the Dalit youth who was tortured, but they did not allow me to go. This shows the anti-Dalit face of Congress. Their youth Congress leader Harman Singh was leading this protest. I was coming from Hoshiarpur and had stopped at Muktsar to have breakfast at the Circuit House from where I started. Police security changed our route and surprisingly, protesters got to know that as well too quickly, which shows that they are hand in glove with Congressmen. In between, police kept our vehicles parked on the roadside for 7-8 minutes while they were changing route. Perhaps it was done to let protesters reach the other venue. ”
Sampla and protesters sat on separate dharnas for about two hours at the same spot raising slogans against each other. Sampla told the media, “Police are saying that they will arrest me, they will not allow my vehicle to move ahead. I told them that I will not move back and rather walk to reach the spot. However, they then detained me and made me sit in their vehicle. But I will go and meet that Dalit youth. They cannot gag the voice of Dalits as I am also a Dalit and I am their voice.”
Shingaara Singh Mann, BKU (Ugrahan) Bathinda unit president, said, “It was a joint protest by farmers from different unions and our members were also part of it. We are against all political parties and not just BJP. I ask BJP leaders to come for a direct discussion with us. We have nothing to do with their political blame games.”
Gurditta Singh, one of the farmers protesting from Sidhupur group said, “Political parties keep on blaming each other, but the fact is that every villager of Punjab is upset about the farm laws and hence such protests are bound to happen. You can see the flags of our unions as well in that protest.”
Sources said farmers from BKU (Ugrahan), Sidhupur and Dakaunda had sat on dharna to protest against BJP leader.
Muktsar SSP D Sudharvizhi told The Indian Express, “We did not arrest anyone and we did not detain anyone. Rather, we escorted the BJP leader out of the spot so as to de-escalate the situation.”
Meanwhile, the escorted vehicle passed Faridkot, Moga, Jalandhar and later reached Adampur. Sampla said he was dropped at Adampur, 25 km away from his house in Hoshiarpur. Box: The Dalit ‘torture’ case On October 8, a Dalit youth named Gurnam Singh, resident of village Chak Madrasa was allegedly beaten up by villagers of Chak Janesar. According to Gurnam’s statement, he had gone to take a motorcycle from his brother on October 8 at about 10.30 pm, when three upper caste men — Simarjit Singh alais Kala, Ramandeep Singh alias Ramna and Jagvir Singh alias Bhola Pandit — started beating him up. They took him to the village dharamshala and forced him to drink their urine.
After this episode, Gurnam went back to his house and on October 10 got himself admitted in Jalalabad civil hospital and complained to police. Fazilka SSP Harjit Singh said, “On his complaint, three persons were booked on October 12. But the episode of caste came into the picture on October 13 and hence sections under SC/ST Act were added. We have also booked three persons on charges of hurting religious sentiments, taking law and order in their hand. However they are yet to be arrested.”
Meanwhile Gurnam Singh got himself discharged from hospital and is now living with his brother in Chak Janesar village instead of returning to his village. Sources said that Gurnam was coming to Chak Janesar village by foot and villagers on Theekri Pehra questioned him about the purpose of his visit. When he was unable to explain, they suspected him to be a thief, because several goats had been stolen from the area a few days ago. Later, they started beating him up and even made videos. The SSP said, “So far there has been no substantial evidence of him being forced to drink urine, though it has come to our notice that they had beaten him up. We have lodged an FIR as per Gurnam’s statement and investigation is on.”
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