Farmers’ protest prevents Sampla from visiting Dalit family in Mansa village, over 200 booked

The protesters were booked under SC/STs (Prevention of Atrocities) Act on the complaint of family of deceased. Sources said that Dalit families of village and even Dalit unions were not part of the farmers’ protest on Friday.

Over 200 members of protesting farmer outfits were booked on Friday for staging dharnas to block entry of senior BJP leader and national SC/ST panel chairman Vijay Sampla to village Phapre Bhaike in Mansa. Sampla was scheduled to visit the village to meet the family of a 20-year-old youth who had died on May 22 allegedly due to torture in police custody.

The protesters were booked under SC/STs (Prevention of Atrocities) Act on the complaint of family of deceased. Sources said that Dalit families of village and even Dalit unions were not part of the farmers’ protest on Friday.

Also on Friday, SHO Surjan Singh from Budhlada was suspended and an FIR lodged against him under SC/STs (Prevention of Atrocities) Act for alleged custodial torture of the Dalit youth, Manpreet Singh.

Bhappi Kaur, mother of Manpreet, said, “My son used to live with my sister in Budhlada. On May 22, police picked him up from home after he had an altercation with some neighbours. I went from Mansa to Budhlada and finally my son was allowed to go home at 11pm on the same day. Cops told us to bring him again the next day. However, my son died the same night.

Before his death, he was repeatedly saying that the police had tortured him and he did not want to go to the police station again.”

Bhappi had written to the SC/ST commission on May 25 following which Sampla had decided to visit the family.

But much before his arrival on Friday, farmer unions staged dharnas at all the seven entry points of village Phapre Bhaike, raising slogans against BJP, Sampla and the Centre.

Sampla was taken to police lines and he waited in the mess for more than 3 hours where finally the complainant, Bhappi Kaur, was called to meet Sampla.

Ram Singh Bhainibagha, president BKU (Ugrahan)’s Mansa unit, said, “We have full sympathy with the Dalit family whose son allegedly died due to police torture. We will always stand by them for justice. However, this protest was against the BJP leader.”

Balwinder Sharma, block president of BKU (Dakaunda), said, “Dharna was under the banner of Samyukta Kisan Morcha by all farmer unions of Punjab as our protest was against BJP. Already our pakka dharnas are going on outside the houses of more than 30 BJP leaders in Punjab. We have already announced that we will not allow BJP leaders to enter villages, so we did the same.”

He added, “We were aware that FIR will be lodged against us under SC/ST Act as Sampla is chairman of SC/ST commission. But we don’t fear FIRs. We will continue staging protests against BJP leaders.”

Speaking to The Indian Express, Sampla said, ‘’Protestors were not farmers. They were the ones who are party to all those who do atrocities on Dalits. I went to meet the family who had written to me as even after more than 10 days of death of Dalit boy, no action had been taken by police. I had to call the mother to police lines to meet me as I am duty bound to
get justice delivered to every Dalit family. After my intervention, SHO was suspended and an FIR was lodged against him.

The family will get Rs 8.25 lakh as compensation in two installments as per the SC/ST Act. First installment of 50 per cent will be given to the family by next week… District administration has been directed to start giving pension of Rs 5,000 per month to the mother and a minor child from the family is entitled to study free of cost till graduation if the child wants. Administration has also been directed to give due money to mother of deceased for construction of her house.”

He added: “Blocking way is depriving the Dalits of justice…I am bound to help each and every Dalit and will continue visiting villages whenever the need arises.”

In a statement issued late in the evening, the SKM said that the BJP was trying to create a divide among the villagers as efforts were being made to create a rift between Dalits and general category people.

Bhainibagha said: “Getting an FIR lodged against us through villagers is a direct message to create a divide…But mazdoor bhaichara is always with us. We appeal to them to stay united with us. “ Meanwhile Mohinderpal, DC Mansa said,” I have deputed district social welfare officer to look into this case and provide relief to the family as per the act. Her file needs to be complete before getting financial relief.”

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