Villagers still terrified
SHO blamed; Atwal visits village
Khanpur (Kharar), May 23
Terror of the Punjab police is writ large in the eyes of residents of this village even two days after a violent clash that took place between the villagers and the police and left more than 30 persons, including women and police personnel, injured.
The police had resorted to a cane charge and fired tear gas to disburse the villagers who had blocked the Kharar-Morinda highway in protest against an ongoing land dispute on Monday.
Following an alleged curfew-like situation by the police, the youth of the village have fled their homes leaving behind their children and aged parents. Most of the houses belonging to the dalit community in the village were found locked and those who decided to stay keep their doors shut to visitors. “The police kept hitting on our door last night but we did not reply. We were too scared to venture out,” said Prem Kaur, adding that they were being forced to answer nature’s call inside their house in spite of no facility.
Surinder Kaur (50) and Swarn Kaur (65), whose earning family members have been arrested, along with a few others gathered at the “chaupal” to share their grief.
Weeping constantly, Harjeet Kaur showed tear gas shells fired by the police inside her house. Marks left by the blow of lathis were visible on the legs and hands of the women present there.
Later, the Speaker of the Vidhan Sabha, Mr Charanjit Singh Atwal, arrived along with his cavalcade to get a first-hand account of the incident. A daily wage earner, Jarnail Singh, who was bed-ridden after being injured in the lathi charge, was brought on a cot to the “chaupal” to narrate his tale of woes to the Speaker. His family members were allegedly not allowed to take him out of the village to hospital.
Inquiries reveal that some of the Dalit families were forced to take shelter in the homes of their relatives in other villages. The villagers told the Speaker that the terror was let loose on the directions of the Station House Officer (SHO), Kharar, Jasdev Singh. However, they said the SDM and the DSP were sympathetic.
They said even two days after the incident, no action had been taken against the guilty police officials. When the Speaker was listening to the villagers, the SHO (Kharar), who was on a round of the village, went away from the scene.
The Speaker told The Tribune that he had asked the Chief Secretary and the DGP to inquire into the matter and give their report. The Chief Secretary had been asked to get a report from the Ropar district administration. Mr Chatwal said he would take up the issue with the Chief Minister.
Later in the evening, the Deputy Commissioner and the SSP visited Kharar to inquire into the matter. The Deputy Commissioner, Mr G.S. Grewal, said action would be taken against the police officials responsible for the excesses. The complaint of misbehaviour by the police with women was also being investigated.
During a meeting of district officials with political leaders and prominent citizens, it was alleged by certain persons that the villagers had been instigated by a senior BJP leader.
Villagers hurt in lathi charge
Shashi Pal Jain
The police had to resort to lathicharge and fire teargas shells and plastic bullets to disperse the mob, resulting in injuries to several police personnel and villagers. Some villagers were severely beaten up after that and about 60 of them, including many women, were rounded up by the police.
The majority of the agitators were Dalits and women. They alleged that the women were teased and foul language was used against them by employees or persons who had grabbed the land when the women went to answer the calls of nature. They were also being threatened.
They alleged that the encroachers had started demolishing a small earthen dike constructed on the side of the river of Khanpur which passed by near the land. This caused a danger of floods to the village.
The agitators demanded that Mr Sujan Singh, Punjab Minister who recently said that encroachments in the state would be removed, should visit Khanpur and only then would they lift the dharna.
Mr Devinder Singh, SDM, Kharar, and Mr Rupinder Singh, DSP, Kharar, tried to persuade the protestors to lift the dharna at 9 a.m. and promised to take action on their complaints. But this failed to pacify them.
It may be mentioned that a compromise was reached between the villagers and owners on April 28, but the protestors today even rejected this compromise.
Meanwhile, the administration called additional police force, including lady police, and two fire engines.
When no compromise could be reached till 9.45 a.m., the administration tried to disperse the traffic jam. At this, the villagers protested. Stones and bricks were allegedly hurled on the police.
The police resorted to a mild lathi charge, fired teargas shells and plastic bullets and many people, including women, were beaten up.
Mr Darshan Singh, Sub-Inspector of police, was seriously injured and Mr Devinder Singh, SDM, Kharar, also suffered a fracture in the left arm.
After that, the police entered the residences of many villagers, beat them up and took them into custody.
Mr Rakesh Kumar Bagga, President of the Municipal Committee, Morinda, who was going to Chandigarh was also beaten up by the police in the melee. He said that although he disclosed his identity the police paid no heed and took him to the Kharar police station.
Mr Jasdev Singh, SHO, Kharar, said 60 villagers had been rounded up. He said 10 policemen were injured in this tussle.
Mr Darshan Singh SI, Mr Barma Singh (ASI) and constables Ashoke Kumar, Amarjit and Balbir Singh were admitted to Civil Hospital, Kharar.
Some villagers, including Mrs Nachatar Kaur, Mrs Babli and Maya Devi, Charanjit Kaur and a newly wed Sukhvir Kaur and an old man Babu Ram were also admitted to the hospital.
Meanwhile, Mr Jagjit Singh, Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, and Mrs Lakhwinder Kaur Garcha, general secretary of the PPCC (I), have criticised this action of the police.