Landless organizations, labor leaders, students and others have denounced the use of force by the Punjab police on ‘peaceful’ farm workers during a protest march to Lambi, the home turf of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, on Thursday. BKU district general secretary Gurmail Singh Burjan said the protesting farm workers were intercepted by the police near village Kheowali on their way to Lambi and were attacked by police leaving many of them injured (some of whom are pictured here). The police had fortified the Lambi village to prevent the entry of protesters.
The workers, who were pushing for an increase in daily wages and many other long ignored demands, were proceeding in a procession to hold dharna (a hunger strike) at Badal village in support of their demands when they were stopped by police.
Eighteen activists of the Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union, including women, sustained injuries when the police fired rubber bullets, tear gas shells and used water cannons to stop them from moving towards Badal, the native village of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.
The Tribune reports the landless farmers were marching towards the village to protest the non-acceptance of their long-pending demands. They were demanding land for dumping waste in Aulakh village, financial help for families affected by militancy in Fatoohiwala village, plots for the landless and possession of the allotted plots.
The leaders alleged that Badal had promised them on April 14 to accept all their demands but nothing had been done in this regard. The protesters, who had started their march from Lambi, faced police barricades on the road leading to Badal village. They were intercepted at Kheowali village.
Lachman Singh Sevewala, general secretary of the union, said: “We had minor demands that would have cost the government around Rs 1,15,000 only. We had met senior officials of the district administration, but except for assurances, we got nothing”.
“We had already sent a memorandum regarding the two-day protest to the Chief Minister through the deputy commissioner, Muktsar. The SHO of Lambi, the DSP and the tehsildar had held a meeting with us on Wednesday. They sought the postponement of the agitation for one month, which we had turned down,” he added.
Bharatiya Khet Mazdoor Union (Hindi for 'Indian Land Workers Union')which organized the march is a trade union of agricultural labourers in India. BKMU is politically tied to the Communist Party of India. BKMU is independent from both the main trade union central of CPI, the All India Trade Union Congress, as well as the farmers' organisation of CPI, the All India Kisan Sabha.
The following is from the Times of India.
Cops-landless labourers' clash: 50 injured
BADAL (MUKTSAR): In the ongoing agitation of landless labourers under the banner of Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union against the Muktsar district administration and state government, a clash with the police on Thursday left 50 injured.
The incident took place when after a verbal duel with the police at Kheowali village charged up the protesters, who wanted to hold a demonstration in front of the ancestral house of the chief minister at Badal village.
When the cops failed in controlling them it then used force. In what ensued the cops used lathis, water cannons and rubber bullets while the labourers pelted the police with stones.
Muktsar SSP Gurpreet Gill claimed that it were the labourers who attacked the police first and the latter acted in self-defence.
However, Sukha Singh, a labourer admitted at Bathinda hospital with many injuries, alleged that it was the police which started beating the labourers without any provocation. Among the injured were six women and seven policemen.
The labourers were now continuing with their dharna at Kheowali, near Badal village.
It all started when at a meeting the CM had reportedly conceded their five demands and the agitators had agreed to withdraw the stir. “In the past four months the state government showed no concern about fulfilling the five demands, forcing us to start the agitation on Wednesday,” said Laxman Singh Sewewala, general secretary of the union.
On Wednesday when labourers assembled at Lambi and threatened the protest march, the district administration held a meeting with the farmers' body leaders. But after failing to reach a consensus the labourers went ahead with their march.