UNMASKING THE UGLY FACE OF THE KISAN ANDOLAN
- A webinar discussion on the topic “Tikri Rape Case: Unmasking the ugly face of the Kisan Andolan (Farmers Protest)” was conducted by The Punjab Pulse, on 15 May, 2021 at 7PM.
- The Punjab Pulse is an independent, non-partisan Think Tank engaged in research and in-depth study of all aspects that impact the state of Punjab and Punjabis. It strives to provide a platform for wide ranging dialogue that promotes the interest of the state and its people.
Background of the Case
- On 30 April, a girl from West Bengal (name withheld) and hereinafter called “The Girl” who had been brought to the Farmers protest site at Tikri alleged died due to COVID in a hospital in Chandigarh. Before dying the girls confided to her father and some more people that she had been raped by some boys at the Tikri agitation site. She also video recorded her unfortunate and sordid tale on 16 April wherein she says that she was molested and blackmailed by one Anil Malik and his associate Anup Singh Chanaut. They are members of a farm body named Kisan Social Army. Haryana Police is investigating the case even as there are reports of both accused absconding.
- The Girl has alleged that she was molested by Anil Malik while on the train from West Bengal and then raped inside a tent in Tikri by both the accused who also tried to abduct her.
- She then fell sick on 21 April with COVID like symptoms, was hospitalised on 25 April and died on 30 April. On 9 May, The Girls father filed an official complaint with the Haryana Police. A FIR was registered on the same day against six people, including some of the woman’s male and female friends. The police have issued notices to the six people as well as Swaraj India national president Yogendra Yadav asking them to join the probe.
- In early April, the six persons named in the FIR went to West Bengal as part of a ‘BJP Harao’ campaign by the Samyukt Kisan Morcha. There, they met the woman for the first time, and she expressed her desire to join the group. The aforementioned events unfolded from the train journey from West Bengal to Delhi and onwards.
- The webinar was addressed as keynote speaker by Sardar Ramnik Singh Mann, a reputed social worker of Punjab who has been monitoring the case with the intention of ensuring that The Girl gets justice and all accused are given punishment under law
- The webinar was moderated by a senior Advocate, Sardar Satinder Singh
- The webinar witnessed a healthy participation of more than 100 people from various strata of society including retired army officers, academicians, lawyers, intellectuals, bureaucrats etc.
- It was streamed live on the Face Book page of The Punjab Pulse
Points Highlighted by the Keynote Speaker
- The keynote speaker gave a date wise chronology of the unfortunate events that occurred from the time that The Girl left her house to accompany the team from Samyukt Kisan Morcha to the Tikri Border and her death on 30 April. It is similar to the points given in General Outline above. Some significant points mention over and above are as follows:-
- On landing in Delhi on 11 April The Girl was forced to share a tent with the boys despite her raising an objection to the same, where she was assaulted multiple times.
- She informed her father that she was bleeding from her private parts; she also told some women in the agitation site but timely action was not taken
- The boys then attempted to take her to a hospital, not because of COVID, but because of the bleeding. The Girl informed her father that she was being taken to a hospital.
- There is reason to believe that the boys turned back while they were enroute to the hospital with the intention of getting the girl admitted in a private clinic in Rewari. There is a possibility of this decision having been taken on the advice of a senior leader.
- The girl was later admitted in a Hospital when it became apparent that she was in a serious condition, by that time she got COVID along with her poor physical condition and died on 30 April
- Once the girl was no more Yogendra Yadav addressed a virtual press conference where he said that he was in contact with the father of the girl and would support him in every way. However, the father was alone when he lodged the FIR.
- The Post Mortem report does not mention rape which would convert the molestation into a case of consensual sex. There is a need for deeper investigation to ascertain the actual situation on the basis of the many calls that The Girl made to her father and also to others in the agitation site.
- So far as death by COVID is concerned the position taken by the farm leaders puts them in a Catch-22 situation. If The Girl did not die of COVID then her death was a murder. If she died of COVID then the claim made by the leaders that the agitation site is COVID free falls flat
- The keynote speaker also touched upon some more issues related to the Kisan Andolan. The main among these was the risk of COVID infection posed by the congregation, especially so, the turnover rosters prepared which mean that people come to the protest site, stay there for two weeks with high probability of getting infected and then spread the infection in their villages on getting back. Under the circumstances it would be better if a single lot remains in the protest site as a representative body. Alternatively, those going back need to be isolated in their homes for minimum ten days and also tested for COVID. None of this is happening and as a result, the rural areas of Punjab and Haryana are fast coming in the grip of COVID
- There is a falsehood being spread that the agitation being of a holy nature remains free form COVID infection. The unfortunate death of The Girl due to COVID and other reasons has broken this myth.
- There are other happenings in the agitation site that point towards the degradation of the agitation into political opportunism with the interest of the farmers having been relegated to the back burner. The entire effort is towards gaining of Brownie points to assist in political brinkmanship. Some issues flagged by the speaker as examples of his perception are as follows:-
- Conspiracy theories are consistently doing the rounds. An example is the case of ‘masked man’ Yogesh Singh who, in January end, was propped up with a claim that he was part of a plot to murder four farmer leaders. It became clear later that he was an innocent person who had been beaten up and then produced before the press conference. There are many more such conspiracy theories doing the rounds even as rumour mongering is rampant.
- Allegation of molestation of women at the agitation site and even rape have been laid on the police personnel even as the participants of the agitation are themselves are allegedly indulging in the barbaric activity
- The involvement of political parties is apparent since the accused in the rape case, Anil Malik and Anup Singh are both active members of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). There is also evidence pointing towards the continued connection between Yogendra Yadav (with whom these two boys and their group was working) and the AAP. Such parties should have the courage to get their flags there and not stand behind the Kisan Jathebandi.
- It was rumoured that Police has been given orders to clean up the agitation sites forcibly while there was no such ordered passed by the government. The government has, in fact, given all facility of water electricity and they also patrol by police but these matters are being brushed under the carpet.
17, The participants asked a number of questions and also made interventions. The sum of the deliberations threw up the following recommendations:-
- It is very apparent that even though the agitation started off with a genuine aspiration of the farmers, somewhere down the line it has become politicised. Many power centres with a vested interest having appropriated the agenda for their own machinations
- The alleged brutality witnessed in the case involving The Girl from West Bengal is a blot on the face of both Haryana and Punjab that pride themselves as guardians of the honour of women. It is imperative for justice to be meted out to the victim and her family and the culprits be brought to book.
- The agitation site has become a super-spreader of COVID. Urgent steps are required to be taken to control the situation before it causes irreparable damage to the rural areas of Haryana and Punjab.
- The government needs to adopt a more strong stand in dealing with the current situation regarding the agitation since it has become a hot bed of criminal activity along with the danger posed to health and well being of the people.