Mohali: A septuagenarian farmer named Bharat Singh collapsed on Wednesday in Naraingarh, Ambala, at a rally in support of the contentious farm laws. Later, at the Civil Hospital in Naraingarh, he was declared dead.
The family of the farmer has told the media that anti-farm law protestors, mostly from the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), attacked the Bharatiya Janata Party’s pro-farm laws tractor rally “with sticks and stones” and during the “scuffle,” Bharat Singh “fainted”.
“My father was sitting on the tractor which was behind BJP MP Nayab Singh’s tractor. Farmers who were against the bills climbed on top of the tractor and because of the scuffle, my father fell and fainted,” Bhupinder Singh (38) told The Wire on the phone.
BJP MP Nayab Singh Saini, who was leading BJP’s tractor rally in support of the farm bills, told The Wire that those protesting the farm laws indulged in violence which led to the death of Bharat Singh.
“Sarkar ke kanoono ke khilaf bohot bada tandav kiya (Farmers indulged in extreme violence against Centre’s farm laws),” he said.
Bharat Singh’s son has filed a police complaint against seven BKU members including BKU’s Ambala chief Malkit Singh, holding them responsible for his father’s death. He pressed charges of murder, criminal conspiracy, rioting, unlawful assembly and wrongful restraint against them.
But the purported video does not show any of the actions that the family and the BJP leader have alleged.
Local media channels’ coverage of the rally shows that farmers protesting against the Centre did not let the BJP’s tractor convoy pass. Some showed black flags and some lay flat on the road in front of the convoy. But none of them, in the videos below, are seen mounting tractors and heckling a farmer.
Speaking to The Wire, Gurnam Singh Chaduni, president of the BKU in Haryana, said that charges levelled against their workers are “100% false.”
“This FIR is a lie. There was no scuffle, no one has beaten him [Bharat Singh] up, no one abused him, and no one threw him off the tractor. They have said, our people threw him off the tractor. It was our workers who helped the man get to the hospital quickly.”
Sharply criticising the BJP, Chaduni said, “This BJP is making their dead workers work for them. They are making use of even the dead bodies of their workers now.”
Congress leader and two-time MLA Ram Kishan Gujjar has also told the media that BJP has pressed false charges against protesting farmers. He demanded a post-mortem of the farmer.
The Station House Officer (SHO) of Naraingarh, where the FIR against BKU members has been lodged, told The Wire that the details of the post-mortem can not be shared. When asked if a COVID-19 test was conducted on Bharat Singh’s body, he confirmed that the medical officer in charge had told them that a COVID-19 test was “not required” and hadn’t been done.
President of BKU Chaduni said that Malkit Singh and seven other members against whom the FIR has been lodged are in hiding.
Not just in Haryana’s Ambala, but even in Punjab, farmers protesting against the Centre’s farm laws have been boycotting and stalling attempts by the BJP to “convince” them that the new laws are good for them.
On Wednesday, in Sangrur, Union minister Kailash Chaudhry’s virtual conference was forcefully stopped by farmers, most of them were from the Bharatiya Kisan Union. On the same day, farm leaders walked out of their meeting with the agricultural secretary in New Delhi and tore copies of the new laws.
Over the next few days, till October 20, six more virtual rallies have been planned by the BJP in Punjab. On October 15 and 16, Union ministers Smriti Irani and Anurag Thakur shall address arthiyas and agricultural scientists virtually on this subject.