Punjab – Statements/Report on police firing and attack on peasants near Patiala

July 1, 2012

State Repression on Punjab Farmers on 19th June, 2012

Statement prepared by Bharti Kissan Union (Dakaunda)

– Peasants Resist Forcible Eviction and Acquisition of Land at a time when the sowing of next crop has begun
– Fired upon, Baton Charged, Shoed, Tear gassed, Water Cannoned
– More than a two Dozens Injured severely, including many Peasant Women
– A Dozen Vehicles Smashed

Click here to read the pdf version of the statement (including photographs)

Village: Charason and Balberah (situated on Patiala Kaithal (Haryana Road), about 20 K. M. from Patiala District

About four dozens of peasants cultivating village common lands for decades were beaten up, fired upon and sprayed with water canon when they tried to resist occupation of their small agriculture plots (ranging from ½ to 5 acres). 16 peasants were admitted to hospital including two women while dozens more received baton blows and did not reported in hospital. One person has a bullet shot, while many others were hit by teargas shells. About 300 farmers, mostly small and middle gathered in Charason and Balberah villages under the leadership of BKU (Dakaunda), when police, revenue officials and rural development and panchayat raj officials descended on the two adjoining villages of Charason and Balbehra to wrest control of about 140 acres of land. Both these villages have about 800 to 900 acres of community lands of which the Punjab and Haryana High Court has ordered the eviction of cultivators from 140 acres of land. The people have reclaimed these lands after a hard labour of generations by uprooting jungles and bushes, treating salinity of the soil and leveling of land which had remained unfit for cultivation throughout. The people have worked on them since 1950, before even the panchayats were constituted. These are community lands and not the property of government or of any government department. The lands belong to the people who work on it though they have not been given ownership of these lands as these were cultivated mostly by poor people of upper along with dalits and backward castes. The influential and rich farmers who reclaimed the land got decree in favor of them from the various courts and became the owners of the land which they cultivated. But thousands of farmers in three developmet blocks of District Patiala i.e. Sanaur, Bhunerheri and Samana who reclaimed these lands (Operational Holders but not the owners) are now being pressurized by the government departments, land mafias and ruling party politicians either they should get these lands at rent through competi tion or increase the rent at the rate of 40% annually or leave these lands for rich farmers, bureaucrats, land mafias etc.

One can term this as the height of caste discrimination prevalent here. (Even an official from the police department ridiculed the Jatt peasants when they told him that they owned 2-3 acres of land. He did not consider them as peasants.) There are many villages throughout Punjab which have this kind of problem, especially in the border areas, in areas along the rivers, and in the foothills. Patiala (a former feudal fiefdom) is also a district lying at the border with Haryana.

Now when these lands have been made fertile through decades of hard family labour and with the rising prices of land in this era of SEZs and MNC penetration and spurt in land mafia operations the land cultivated by poor common people is being made the target. It is easier to dislodge them without paying any compensation with the argument that this land does not belong to them primarily. The government in Punjab is trying to wrest back village common lands from the possession of the people by terming them as government lands. It is being done in the name of generating funds for the panchayats and the revenue department. However, the people who till it already pay the panchayats and revenue department regularly. The government has no right to venture into economic affairs of these community lands.

This is totally against the social and community rights of the people over their lands and these things are to be decided by the entire Gram Sabha taking into consideration the well being of all sections of the village people. This right of the people cannot be violated under any rule.
This attitude of the government lays at the heart of confrontation between the peasants and the state machinery. And in this battle, the government officials violate all accepted norms and rules. The state cannot take control of any piece of land without informing the Sarpanch, the panchayat members, the concerned person who cultivate that land and in the absence of any decision by the Gram Sabha (the gathering of the village people as a whole) because the land belongs to the village community. It has to announce its arrival prior to the act of possession. In Charason and Balbehra it had come twice but the people assembled there and did not allow it to carry on the act of possession. The government has also tried to acquire such lands in other villages of the district and at some places it forcibly took away or burned down ripened wheat crop like in village Haryaoo Khurd, at other places its attempts were thwarted through the resistance of people like in village Kharabgarh.

On 19th of June it came unannounced with a heavy police force. The people started gathering after they noticed the arrival of police. They informed the people from adjoining villages through public address systems and through telephones and exhorted them to come to their help. As the people men and women, came running to the fields and on their motorcycles and argued with the officials about the illegal method they had adopted to arrive and take possession the things came to a boil and both sides ended up in a clash. As the police was armed and the people were bare handed still the people were able to make the police forces retreat. As more police forces arrived and outnumbered the people the police was able to deliver heavy blows to the people using sticks, tear gas, water cannon, and even the fire arms. The police allege that some among the people also used fire arms is just a subterfuge to justify its vast repression let loose on the people. The people on their part say that they only hurled broken bricks in their attempt to thwart the police action. Later the water cannon vehicle earned their ire and it was rendered ineffective.

The clash continued for one and a half hour. The police took into custody one of the local leaders (block president of Sanaur of BKU (Dakaunda) Sukhwinder Singh Tulewal) who was later let off as other peasant leaders of the area argued with the police for releasing him. With more than one and a half dozen people needing admission to the hospital for the treatment of burns, blows, injuries and fractures the people rushed them to the district government hospital.

When the peasants had brought their injured to the Rajindra government hospital in Patiala for their treatment and the district leadership of BKU Dakaunda and other people arrived to meet the injured in hospital they found the hospital premises teeming with police forces. Nothing of sort of anger was there to be seen among the people as they were busy in making arrangements for the treatment of the injured, for their ex-rays and in securing medicines and money.

The police officials arrived and arrested a number of people from the hospital premises. All this went on peacefully without any resistance on the part of the people. A total of ten persons were taken to the local thana, booked under various cases and then turned them over to the Sadar police station. The arrested included District President of BKU Dakaunda Dr. Darshan Pal, District Secretary Satwant Singh Wajidpur, Karnail Singh Lang, District Vice President, Mukhtiar Singh Dullar, Samana Block President, Nirmal Singh Lachkani, Patiala-2 Block President, Jang Singh Bhateri, District Committee Member, Darshan Singh Shekhupur, District Finance Secretary, Pala Singh Dakala, President of Dakala village … … …and Gurmeet (Satnam), Writer of Jangalnama.

Two of the leaders were severely beaten up in the Sada rThana. One of the two was the District Secretary who had protested against the beating of Mukhtiar Singh Dullarh. Police officials had slapped Mukhtiar Singh Dullarh, took off his turban, pulled his beard and booted him after calling him into a room. He is a marginal peasant, a baptized devout Sikh. This was enough to raise a protest from others and the district secretary raised slogans against this highhandedness committed against Dullar. He too was severely beaten up for raising his voice, his shirt torn off, turban soiled, pushed to lie on the ground and shoed in the belly and on the back and showered with bad names along with Mukhtiar Singh Dullar. In charge of Sadar police station so afraid of BKU (Dakaunda) that while he along with two other police officials was misbehaving with these two leaders, he raised slogans like BKU-Murdabad and crushed the badge of BKU under his foot. It looked as he had lost control and was behaved like a hysterical patient.
In the mid of night, all these ten were let off on a personal bond after being invited into the chamber of SP (D) for talks. It was agreed that the police and revenue officials will not go for possession of lands in any village and no more arrests will be there till the Kisan Union and district officials have sorted out a solution to the problem.

Next day, sixty more peasants and workers of the Union were booked under various clauses of the IPC. These 60 belong to a number of villages and a majority among them is from Charason and Balbehra, where the clash took place along with some Union leaders.

On the 20th of June, the front of Seventeen Peasant and Rural Workers unions burned effigies of the Punjab government throughout Punjab in protest against repression and highhandedness of the police.

It is a good thing that some Kisan organizations in Punjab are taking up the cause of dalit and other lower caste poor peasants.

The main demands of the peasant organizations are as follows:

1. Those peasants, who are tilling these plots for five decades and who have made barren lands fertile with labour of generations be declared Abadkars and given ownership rights.

2. The concerned police official (In charge of Patiala Sadar Police Station) and Block Development and Panchayat Officer be booked for inflicting injuries, smashing motorcycles belonging to the people, firing without warning and without any orders from the Sub Div. Magistrate and torture in the Sadar Thana.

3. Cases against the people and Union leaders should be withdrawn immediately.

The leadership of BKU (Dakaunda) invites all struggling and justice loving people and organizations to stand for the cause of Abadkars and condemn the repression let loose by the state machinery.


Preliminary statement from fact-finding team

June 23, 2012

On May 19, 2012 the Punjab state police unleashed the terror of severe lathicharge and firing on the people of Chorason village, district Patiala. The issue of contention was the acquisition of the common village land by the administration. The land has been given to these cultivators by the village panchayat on lease for the last more than fifty years. The government now wants to forcefully take away this land from the cultivators. To investigate the matter two organizations Democratic Lawyers Association and Association For Democratic Rights, Punjab (AFDR) jointly formed a fact finding team. The members of the team are:

Prof. Jagmohan Singh
Prof A K Maleri
Sh. Vidhushekhar Bhardwaj
Gurbakhash Singh
Dalip Singh
Jatinder Singh
Pritpal Singh
Advocate Rajiv Lohatbaddi
Advocate Daljit Singh
Advocate Alankar Arora
Advocate Sher Singh Paprala

The team has visited Rajindra hospital, Patiala and inquired from the injured villagers. The team has met the leaders of BKU (Dakaunda) and collected the information from them. It has visited the site of contestation and interviewed the affected people at Chorason village. The team has also gone to the office of BDPO, Smt. Jaswant Kaur, to listen to her version of the whole episode. We could not meet her as the office told us that she was on leave till Monday.

Preliminary findings by the team:

1. The village common land of contestation is about 70 acres. The people from Dalit, Jat, Lubhana, Bazigar communities are tilling this land for the last more than 50 years. Most of these people have migrated from Pakistan after partition. Large section of the Dalit community has migrated from Amritsar district of Punjab. During those days it was complete forest and barren land. They have put their hard labour and made it cultivable land. They have carried the soil from neighboring areas to fill deep pits and level this land. They dug up wells and put up tubewells to provide water for irrigation. Most of the cultivators are paying the Malia (fixed amount paid to panchayat per acre for lease). They have shown the receipts also.

2. Sarpanch, Surjit Singh, and the villagers have told the team that they were not informed in writing about this land acquisition. No prior announcement was made by the administration regarding this action.

3. According to the eye witnesses, when the leadership of BKU (Dakaunda) was arguing with the SP and SDM regarding this issue, ASP Turmal Nivale without taking the permission of concerned authority present at the spot ordered the police to lathicharge. They even fired at the people gathered to stop this land acquisition. Two of the villagers sustained bullets injuries also.

4. During the evening of May 19, when the leaders of the Kisan Union came to Rajindra hospital, Patiala to facilitate the injured villagers in their treatment, ten members of the Union was arrested by the police. They were taken first to civil line thana and then to sadar thana. The police slapped and abused Satwant Singh and Mukhtiar Singh at sadar thana. Later on they were released late at night.

5. To terrorize the villagers, police has booked number of them under Section 307 and other serious sections of IPC. The police personnel have been behaving as if they are above the law. This conduct of the police has been exposed by the fact that it has filed the cases against the dead people also. The villagers have pointed out the names of ten people which are no more but the cases have been registered against them.

6. The Sarpanch of the village is being continuously pressurized by the police to take the side of the administration.

The fact finding team has issued this statement to the press and said that it will bring out an extensive report after meeting concerned officials and gathering other facts about the matter. It asks for the action against the people which are responsible for this brutal act.

Issued by

Advocate Rajiv Lohatbaddi (Democratic Lawyers Associations)
Jatinder Singh (Association For Democratic Rights, Punjab)


Press Statement from Bharti Kissan Union, Ekta (Dakaunda)

June 20, 2012

Police Let Loose Oppression in Patiala’s Charason and Balberah Villages on Peasants
Two villagers injured in Firing,
About Two Dozen injured in Cane charge,
Some Arrested

Today hundreds of policemen with police officials accompanied the higher officials of panchayat and development department and revenue officials and other state officials to wrest land from the peasants who have been cultivating it for the last four to five decades. The police suddenly descended on the village in great numbers to forcibly take possession of the lands of poor peasants without informing the elected panchayat and people of the village as usually is the norm. The police resorted to firing and lathicharge when a large crowd of people from Balberah and Charason villages and adjoining villages assembled to resist acquisition. The injured includes women too. The police attacked people two times in a span of one and half an hour. The resistance of the people continued for about two hours. The development officials earlier have come to these villages twice but they went back when large number of people resisted but were forced by the people to return empty handed.. Now for the third time they came quietly to take control of about 140 acres of land. The people allege that the police resorted to violence even when there was no provocation from the side of the people. The police not only used bullets rubber bullets and water cannon but also made use of live cartridges. While this report is being filed the clash between the people and the police is still going on. The police are hunting down and dragging people from various tube wells in the area and mercilessly beating them.

Police has also destroyed dozens of motorcycles belonging to the people. This kind of behavior of the state forces is a normal thing while the state wants to people booked for damaging public or private peoperty.

Lies at the heart of this incident is the decision of the Punjab government to wrest village common lands which the people have claimed through hard labor of decades making it fit for cultivation. Now as the lands have started producing grains and providing livelihood to the people who have worked on it the government has decided to take it back violating all the rules and regulations about these lands. This is the easier way for the government to acquire lands as the lands under ownership of the peasants is far more difficult to acquire. The people on the other hand demand that they be made owners of these lands as their forefathers have worked on them for decades and made these fit for producing crops. The people depend on these lands for their lives as this is the only source of income for them.

The people had thwarted previous two attempts by the administration to take control of these lands. But this time the police and officials descended on the village like a blitzkriegs and started attacking the people without any provocation.

The people are being led by the Bharti Kisan Union (Dakaunda) in their fight back.

State Committee of BKU, .Ekta (Dakaunda) has taken a very serious notice of the oppressive attitude of Patiala administration. Condemning this incident of high handedness of Patiala Police, state president Buta Singh Burajgill, Senior Vice President Manjit Singh Dhaner, State General Secretary Jagmohan Singh and State fince secretary Ram Singh Matorarah and District President Dr. Darshan Pal has warned the state government and the Patiala administration to face the wrth of the people of Punjab and of serious consequences, if the farmers who have re claimed the land are not given the ownership rights.

Issued by
Dr. Darshan Pal
Disrict President