Dying in cold and facing water cannons
A 76 year old farmer Baldev Singh, from Punjab, faced the water cannon of Haryana police. Later he developed several health issues and died of cold on December 8. His family is not scared. His son Raghuvir Singh has joined the agitation. Raghuvir was proud of his father. “My father died of cold. After Haryana cops used water cannons, he caught fever and had other associated health problems, which claimed his life. My father laid down his life for farmers and we are proud of him. I have joined the protest now because I don’t want his sacrifice to go waste. His last wish was to get the farm laws repealed, and I will keep demonstrating till my last breath.” This is the commitment of the farmers.
Why Centre’s proposal was rejected?
Why the farmers rejected the Government’s proposal to suspend three farm laws for 18 months? Answer of Samyukta Kisan Morcha is this: “The SKM pays homage to the 143 farmers who have been martyred in this movement so far. These companions are separated from us while fighting in this mass movement. Their sacrifice will not go in vain and we will not go back without the repealing of these farm laws.”
They further said: “A full repeal of three central farm acts and enacting a legislation for remunerative MSP for all farmers were reiterated as the pending demands of the movement”.
Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar declared on 20th January that the government was ready to suspend implementation of the three laws for one and a half years, during which period a joint committee of representatives from the government and farmers’ sides can continue their talks and those protesting on Delhi borders in extremely cold weather return to their homes.
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Before 8 January 2021, there were winter rains. By that date death toll of farmers had crossed 120. On 2 January 2021, the estimate was 57. Dhanna Singh (age 45) of Mansa district in Punjab was first to die in this struggle. He was a leader of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Dakaunda). He died, on the night of 26 November 2020, while trying to negotiate his tractor past the Haryana Police road barricade of sand laden truck and stones.
Out of 41 died by 20 December, 38 were from Punjab (30 from Malwa, six from Doaba,and two from Majha), and three from Haryana. Seven farmers died due to the cold and heart attacks at the Tikri border, and six at Singhu border. Sant Baba Ram Singh, committed suicide on 16 December. Piara Singh, a 70-year-old poor farmer, and member of BKU (Dakaunda) died on 29 December, of pneumonia. Other farmers cremated on 29 December included Amarjeet Singh Rai in Jalalabad, and farm laborer Malkiat Kaur of Mazdoor Mukti Morcha in Mansa, Punjab. On 1 January 2021, Galtan Singh, 57, of Baghpat, UP, who was protesting at Ghazipur border, died after complaining of breathlessness. On 2 January, two at the Tikri Border, and one at the Singhu border died. In Tikri Jagbir Singh, 66, from Jind district, died of heart-attack; and Jashnpreet, 18, from Bathinda, died. Shamsher Singh, 44, a dalit farmer, who was in Singhu camp with his son, 13, died after he complained of chest pain.
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As of 8 January 2021 death toll was four. Sant Baba Ram Singh, a Sikh priest, shot himself on 16 December 2020 at the Singhu border in protest against the farm laws. According to J.S. Randhawa, Senior Superintendent of Police, Sonepat, Haryana, Ram Singh, Left behind 10-page note, dated 14 December, and a handwritten suicide letter, dated 16 December 2020, in which he wrote that he could not bear the pain of the farmers. At his funeral on 18 December, in Karnal, attended by farmer leaders, religious heads, and Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee chief Bibi Jagir Kaur, the suicide letter was read out, which said, “Bullets fired from the guns kill only those whom they strike. The bullet of injustice, however, kills many with a single stroke… It is humiliating to suffer injustice.”
On 18 December, according to Joginder Singh Jawanda, BKU (Ugrahan) leader, a heavily indebted 22-year-old Punjab farmer, killed himself with poison in his village after returning from Singhu, the protest site on the Delhi border. On 27 December, Amarjit Singh Rai, a lawyer, committed suicide by taking poison. Rai before he took his life wrote in a note that he was “sacrificing his life” in support of farmer’s protest, and urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to “listen to the voice of the people”.
On 2 January 2021, Kashmir Singh Ladi, 75 year old farmer from Bilaspur, Rampur district, Uttar Pradesh (UP), committed suicide. He is the fourth farmer suicide since the farm protesters were stopped on 26 November 2020, by UP Police on Delhi-UP Ghazipur Border. Kashmir Singh who had been camping at the border since 28 November along with his son, and grandson, hanged himself in a toilet. Ladi, according to a government official, left a note in Punjabi, that says, “Till when shall we sit here in the cold? This government isn’t listening at all. Hence, I give up my life so that some solution emerges.”
Jaspreet Singh, a farmer from Jalandhar, said that all the farmers are in a state of shock. “Every day, we see at least one of our farmer brothers die. But we continue to protest with tears in our eyes. People believe we are having fun, but the fact is that we have to lend a shoulder to one corpse every day..Most of the farmers who died were the only bread winners of their families. “They sacrificed their lives for the agrarian community and we will do everything for their families now.”
Insane Cold and Heartless Power
Doctors said that most deaths occurred due to severe cold as farmers are being exposed to extreme weather conditions at Tikri and Singhu borders. One should realize that a cold wave has gripped Delhi with icy winds blowing from the snow-covered western Himalayas. This has brought the minimum temperature to 1 degree Celsius, which is the lowest in the city this season — the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said. The ‘insane cold’ is likely to continue in Delhi in the coming days, the IMD stated.
A banner was put up by protesters in Delhi with photos of some of the farmers died in the farmer’s struggle. Farmer leaders said: “People who believe farmers protesting against the three farm laws in Delhi are having fun should think again. At least 60 of them have lost their lives till January 4 since the ‘Dilli chalo’ protests started on November 24 — that is more than one death a day on an average. On January 3, four more died because of cold. Two died of cardiac arrest at the Singhu border on January 3. Fifty two-year-old Kulbeer Singh of Gangana village in Gohana of Sonepat district and 45-year-old Shamsher Singh of Lidhra village of Sangrur district in Punjab were found dead in their tents. Another farmer, Yudhishter Singh, suffered a heart attack after he heard of Kulbeer Singh’s death. His condition is serious. Jashanpreet Singh from Bathinda, 18 years old, and Jagveer Singh, 66, of Ital Kalan village in Jind district died at Tikri border on January 3. 12 protesters died at the Tikri border. Another committed suicide at the Ghazipur border. His suicide note, declared the government responsible for his death.
Most deaths occurred due to severe cold as farmers are being exposed to extreme weather conditions at the Tikri and Singhu borders as explained by doctors. Most of the deceased died due to cold-induced heart attack, while others died either by accident or suicide. The post-mortem reports suggest that the dead had enlarged hearts, which confirms heart attack as the cause of death. A doctor treating protesting farmers at the Singhu border, said that cold weather conditions weaken the heart because it has to work harder to keep the body warm. Doctors explained that cold makes the flow of blood difficult, leading to formation of blood clots. A heart attack usually occurs when a clot blocks blood flow to the heart. Farmers on the Delhi border are exposed to extreme cold, which may cause Myocardial infarction, commonly known as a heart attack. They are suffering from chronic diseases and hypertension. When they are pressure it becomes worse. Many of them are in depression because they think the new laws will take away their livelihood. Hypertension also makes a person prone to heart attack.
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Rakesh Tikait, national spokesperson of Bhartiya Kisan Union, held the government responsible for all deaths. “The government tried several tricks to break our peaceful protest, but never uttered a single word on these untimely deaths. This is shameful and shows that the government doesn’t care about farmers.”
On 20 December, in honour and memory of 41 farmers, national ‘Shradhanjali Diwas’ was observed at Singhu, Tikri, UP Gate, and Chilla, farmer-camps with largest farmer’s presence on the borders of Delhi, and in town and villages all-round the country. According to Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan, general secretary of BKU (Ugrahan) simultaneous events were organized in 98 villages in 15 Punjab districts, on 20 December, to honour the dead. These commemorations continued till 24 December.
On 4 January 2021, on the insistence of farmer’s leaders, government ministers and officials of National Democratic Alliance Government, who had been reluctant to commemorate, condole or comment on the death of farmers, participated in two-minute silence during the seventh round of talks between the government and farmers leaders held in Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi.
Instead of waiting for some more time and not preventing some more deaths, the Centre has to come forward to withdraw these anti-farmer legislations and assure the Minimum Support Price.