Land is being acquired from farmers in the name of Special Economic Zones (SEZs), express highways and development. When the farmers protest against it, then they are put in jail by implicating them in false cases. Around 20 different types of organisations, in which the Farmers Association and Human Rights Organisation are involved, are trying to fight against this situation. Now it will be worth seeing whether these organisations can fight against this Administration.
On 19 October 2012, Dr. Sunilam alias Sunil Mishra — a social activist, politician, writer and former physicist, Sheshrao Suryavanshi Parmandal and Prahlad Agarwal were sentenced to life imprisonment under section 302 for their role in the Multai agitation. This sentence was significant because it was pronounced almost fourteen years after the infamous police firing on farmers that took place on 12 January 1998, in Baitul district of Multai tehsil in Madhya Pradesh. Twenty four farmers died during this police firing and 150 farmers were injured. After this incident, on 17 January 1998 fire brigade driver Dheer Singh died in hospital. Dr. Sunilam has been sentenced to punishment for three cases. The first allegation is of assaulting driver Dheer Singh by throwing stones, due to which he died. The second allegation is of trying to put sub-Inspector Sarnam Singh on fire and the third allegation is of snatching a rifle from a town Inspector. For these three incidents he has been punished with life imprisonment on the charges of murder and attempt to murder, seven years and one year imprisonment for the other two allegations along with monetary penalty. Life imprisonment for the killing of a fire brigade driver and no punishment for the murderers of 24 farmers ! G.P.Singh, who was Superintendent of Police at the time of the agitation has now become Inspector General of Police.
The Multai incident
In the Baitul district of Multai, on 12 January 1998, the Government replied to the demand of compensation by the farmers with bullets. Twenty four farmers were killed and 150 farmers were injured. The administration already had the information that the farmers planned encircling the Multai Tehsil. The farmers were agitating demanding compensation for the damage to crops from the last few months. They presented their memorandum of demands to the Administration at the District and the Tehsil level a number of times. On 12 December 1997, the farmers handed over the memorandum under the leadership of Tanti Choudhary. On 18 December 1997 the memorandum was again handed over and the threat of agitation was given if there would be no action in 7 days. The farmers called a meeting in the courtyard of the Multai Tehsil on 25 December 1997, where the Farmers Struggle Committee was formed and thousands of famers sat down on an indefinite hunger strike in the courtyard of the Multai Tehsil. Even after 12 continuous days of hunger strike on non hearing of the memorandum, the farmers decided on 7 January that they would take out a rally on 9 January 1998 from Multai Tehsil to Baitul District Collectorate. They would do ‘chakka jam’ (block roads) on 11 January 1998 and encircle the Multai Tehsil on 12 January 1998. On 8 January 1998 the police drove away the farmers who were agitating peacefully from the agitation spot but in spite of this 75 thousand farmers of Multai participated in a peaceful rally from Multai Tehsil to Baitul district. The District Collector came to the police ground and said compensation would be paid at the rate of 400 rupees per acre to which the farmers did not agree. On 11 January 1998 there was a ‘chakka jam’ in Multai tehsil which was made successful by farmers from 450 villages. Vandalism was carried out by the police and anti social factors and fake cases were registered against the farmers carrying out the agitation and 6 leaders of the Farmers Struggle Committee were arrested. On 12 January the police did not make efforts to stop the encircling of the Tehsil and when the farmers were unitedly chanting slogans the police started firing in which 24 farmers were killed and 150 farmers were injured. Instead of taking action against the police, 66 cases against 250 farmers were registered. At that point of time, the Deputy Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh Subhash Yadav had said a case of murder should be registered against the Superintendent of Police and the Collector.
This demand was also put forward by the Central Observer of the Congress, Balram Jakhar. All law abiding intellectuals and social organisations also demanded registering of a case of murder against the guilty police officials. The Bharatiya Janata Party had also made comparisons of this incident with the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. Uma Bharti, after becoming the Chief Minister, talked of taking back all the cases that were registered against the farmers. A total of 1,76,000 cases in Madhya Pradesh, which were put on the workers of the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, were all taken back. But the cases related with the Multai incident were not taken back. In the hope of justice 20 accused farmers have already died and 15 accused farmers have crossed 70 years of age. In this context, on 18 October 2012, the judge of Baitul district, S.C.Upadhyay sentenced Dr. Sunilam to life imprisonment, stating he was a murderer, along with two persons, Sheshrao and Prahlad. Prahlad Agarwal is the person who used to run a lodge in Multai. He submitted an affidavit to the single member Inquiry Commission on the Multai firing and massacre and said that “on 16 January in my absence, a police team broke into the lodge and started searching. They called me from my residence and showed one revolver and some cartridges lying on the mattress of room no. 4. They then asked me to sign on some papers. They were trying to pressurise me to testify that Dr. Sunilam stayed in this room and this revolver and the cartridges belong to him. If you do not do this, then you will be implicated in false cases.”
The verdict of the District Court was totally based on the statements of the police Administration who itself is the culprit of the Multai massacre. The Court upheld the statements of the Superintendent of Police (SP) G.P. Singh who was the officer responsible for this massacre. G.P. Singh stated in the Court that Dr. Sunilam pulled down the driver of the fire brigade and hit him with stones. He said that the police fired bullets and the protestors fired back, but he does not know by whose firing how many people were killed. Likewise, the Court upheld the statements of this irresponsible police officer who did not even know who was the then Deputy Chief Minister, how many rounds of bullets were fired by the police and how many people died in that firing. This Indian Police Service (IPS) Officer, who is the murderer of 24 farmers has become the Inspector General of Police (IGP) now.
Gulab Singh, a witness of the Multai firing and massacre, who was a resident of a village of Multai Tehsil had come to Multai on 12 January, 1998 due to some personal work. Gulab Singh, who was standing at the bus stand, said that nobody was fighting with the policemen, rather the policemen were lobbing tear gas shells at the mob. Another witness Ramdas had come to Multai for buying some grocery items. He said in the Court that when he alighted from the bus he saw a mob was emerging from the Tehsil. The policemen were firing on the mob and they were also shot. The Court overlooked the statements of the villagers in which they mentioned that the police were firing bullets and lobbing tear gas shells on the mob. This clearly proves that the verdict of the Court was pre-planned.
On 22 May 2011, a lethal attack was made on Dr. Sunilam and advocate Aradhana Bhargava, 14 kilometers away from the District headquarters of Chhindwara district of Madhya Pradesh. Dr. Sunilam was protesting against land acquisitions in 5 villages for the Adani Power Project Limited and the Adani Pench Power Project. When he was returning from Bhulamoh village for making the ‘Padyatra’ of 28-29 May 2011 successful, then some people surrounded his ‘jeep’ with their ‘Boleros’ and beat him up with sticks. Immediately after this attack, the SP of Chhindwara district was informed. But the police took two and a half hours to cover 14 kilometers. Fears have been expressed that by putting Dr. Sunilam in jail through this verdict, the administration wants to crush the protest against the Adani Power Project Limited and the Adani Pench Power Project. After sending Dr. Sunilam to jail, the State Government, to complete the Adani project quickly, has engaged 1200 paramilitary forces at the place where the Adani Power Project is going to be installed.
Similarly, attempts are being made to suppress the countrywide fight for means of livelihood and the protection of ‘Jal-Jangal-Zameen’(water-forest-land). The leaders and activists of all such agitations are also being implicated in false cases and put in jail. Since Independence, around 84 thousands protestors have been shot dead by the police, but no police officer has been punished yet. Every time they proved themselves innocent by using the term ‘self defense.’ Land is being acquired from farmers in the name of Special Economic Zones (SEZs), express highways and development. When the farmers protest against it, then they are put in jail by implicating them in false cases. Around 20 different types of organisations, in which the Farmers Association and Human Rights Organisation are involved, are trying to fight against this situation.
Now it will be worth seeing whether these organisations can fight against this Administration.
Lakshmi : Struck By Tragedy
The sorrow and grief of the family members of the dead farmers in the Multai fusillade are shared by all, but the story of Lakshmi brings more tears than usual to the eyes. Lakshmi’s husband, Rajendra Hingve died in the Multai fusillade. In 1998, Lakshmi’s age was around 20-22 years. Only 6 months had passed after her marriage. The colour of ‘Mehendi’ on her hands hadn’t even faded when her husband died. She went into deep sorrow after seeing her husband’s dead body, because everything was ruined for her. After the death of her husband, many people suggested to the father and mother-in-law of Lakshmi that they should arrange a second marriage for Lakshmi, but at that time Lakshmi was pregnant, and for the sake of her baby’s future she accepted the life of a widow and rejected the idea of a second marriage. Today Lakshmi is the mother of a girl aged 14. Lakshmi teaches in a school in Paramandal village. Recalling those days she says that a Government which can slaughter people certainly cannot be pro-people. According to her, Dr. Sunilam is the Messiah of the farmers and the punishment that he got is a total injustice.