Thursday, February 23, 2006

"My father had to pay a heavy price to get me justice"

I, Baljit Kaur, daughter of Sri Bant Singh, am a resident of village Burj Jhabbar in Mansa District, Punjab. I was gang-raped on 6 July 2002. I did not conceal the incident and along with my father waged a struggle for justice. My father, Bant Singh Jhabbar, could file an FIR only after a month despite pressure and various enticements from the village Panchayat which led to convictions of the assaulters Mandhir Singh, Dr.Tarsem and Gurmail Kaur. All the three were sentenced to life imprisonment.
Since my father had gone against the wishes of the Panchayat in getting justice, therefore the Sarpanch Jaswant Singh and his elder brother, who is an ex-sarpanch, and both of whom are local leaders of the Congress party. became sworn enemies of my father and started threatening him regularly.
My father got me married to Resham Singh one and half month before the rapists were convicted. My father earned a livelihood by raising pigs. He has seven children of whom my four brothers are just infants. My father keeps himself in high self-esteem. He has been very active in the work of Mazdoor Mukti Morcha and CPI(ML) Liberation. As part of his activism he also got the license for a ration depot of one Amrik Singh cancelled for not distributing ration in the village.
My father was first attacked in August 2005 and the attackers were charged under Sec. 23-24 of the Indian Penal Code. He was attacked a second time in December 2005 and this time the guilty were booked under Sec.107 and 151. In both these cases the Sarpanch Jaswant got the bail for all the attackers and openly stated at the Joga police station itself that “even if you had injured him more seriously, I would still get you out on bail”. These same attackers dealt a deadly attack on my father on 5 January 2006 and the attack was conspired by the present and ex-Sarpanch and officials of the Joga police station. Two sons each of Jaswant Singh and Amrik Singh Vicky and Babli, Appi and Sandeep respectively (who are also relatives of the rapist Mandhir), Honey, S/o Inderjit Singh, and Gurditta and Didar were the main attackers.
My father had to pay a heavy price to get me justice. Both his arms and one leg have been amputated and the criminals are roaming freely. Initially the attackers were given bail from the thana itself due to implicating them under simple charge of 325. It was only after people took to the streets, parties and organisations got involved and news papers carried stories, that fresh charges of 307, 308 and SC-ST Act were levelled against them and they were arrested. Except the Government and the Administration now everyone is with us. I'm ready to fight till we have got justice but will my father get his limbs back?
I demand that both the Sarpanch belonging to the Congress party be booked under Sec.120B and immediately arrested, the SHO of the Joga police station be suspended immediately and case filed against him for hobnobbing with the criminals, a life-long attendant be provided to my father along with a compensation of Rupees Ten lakhs provision be made for looking after my brothers and sisters and one of us be given a permanent job.
The District Commissioner of Mansa has attempted to do away with the issues involved by getting himself photographed by the press while giving a cheque of just Rs. One lakh and some rations to my family. Is this sufficient for treatment of my father and to raise my siblings? The Amarinder Government in Punjab as well as the Administration is shielding the criminals. But my people, my Party and I will continue the struggle until my father and I get justice.
My father is currently admitted at PGI, Chandigarh, where the doctors are trying to save his other badly injured leg. If our demands are not fulfilled then I will be rather compelled to return this cheque of Rs.One lakh.

Sunday, February 19, 2006


Jithe khun hain meren veeriyan da Vishiya sadkan te haqan di luk banke Buchar khaneyan chon jithe lok mere Nittar rahe itihas di thuk banke Maa dhartiye sada suhagne ni Mere yaaran nu janam tu deyin uthe…

Written by Sant Ram Udasi, this Punjabi poem has now become Bant Singh Inquilabi’s beloved song. The poem talks about the pride of his ‘brave brothers’ struggle’ for their rights. He asks mother earth to give them birth again in this land where they are “emerging from the slaughter houses where they were always the spit of history”.

In the ‘trauma ward’ of the PGIPMER at Chandigarh, it is more than just Bant Singh’s mangled, sun-burnt torso that has made him so popular among the patients, attendants and hospital staff. Every night, this revolutionary regales the ward with inquilabi songs and stories of his struggles. So hypnotic is the spirit of this piggery-owner from Mansa that attendants and patients ward off security guards and stick by Bant’s side till the early hours of the morning. One such admirer is young Balkar Singh from Kaithal in Haryana, who is attending upon a sick uncle on a nearby bed. Now, Balkar too wants to join the inquilabi movement like Bant, so inspired he has become.

“I realise I have become a symbol for the oppressed to fight on. “I never will give up my struggle. I can still sing. I can still talk. Can they stop me from that? Never. I had decided I will always work on my own and never as a servant of the landlords. My wounds are grievous, I am physically helpless, but I will still work on my own,’’ says Bant, without a glimmer of self-pity.

But why did they attack? For the first time, he breaks down. “They rape our women. They raped my daughter. I fought back. I made sure they were punished. In every village people were becoming members of the Mazdoor Mukti Morcha. They believed me. I told them they should stop working for the landlords. I was one of the 10 delegates from Punjab for the national conference on labour in Rajahmundry. All this, obviously, outraged the landlords.”

Tehelka, Feb 18 , 2006

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Past imperfect, future tense

It is a moot point whether Bant Singh of Jhabbar village, of remote Mansa district in Punjab, would have been attacked had he not joined the Mazdoor Mukti Morcha.

Perhaps they would have spared him had he not successfully campaigned for the cancellation of the licence of an upper-caste ration depot manager.
It would have taken some doing to spare him though, for he is a Dalit and that is a bad thing in today’s Punjab.

To top it all, he had successfully fought a court battle against retainers of dominant Jat landholders, who raped his minor daughter. Surely, it is a miracle in itself that the sessions court in Punjab had committed the rapists to a life sentence in 2002.

That is a seriously long list of audacities for a Dalit, particularly in Punjab. Bant is known as a singer of rousing protest songs. A long-time sympathiser of the CPI(ML) movement, he had been engaged for some months in mobilising labourers as part of preparations for the national conference of the All India Agrarian Labour Association.

On the evening of January 5, Bant Singh was returning home after making enrollments for the forthcoming conference. He was waylaid by seven persons, at the behest of the current and former village heads, Jaswant Singh and Niranjan Singh.

They assaulted Bant, using axes, iron rods and the handle of a hand pump. Incidentally, Jaswant and Niranjan’s relatives were convicted for Bant’s daughter’s rape.

Heavy blows
At the Mansa Civil Hospital, Dr Purushottam Goel demanded a bribe for Bant’s treatment and did not attend to him till 36 hours from the time of admission.

Bant’s wounds were bandaged only on the seventh day, and the next day his attendants were told — apparently at the instance of local Congress bigwigs — that the hospital lacked facilities to treat him. By the time Bant was shifted to the PGI, Chandigarh, it was too late to save both his hands and a leg.

Now, Bant Singh lies in a hospital in Chandigarh. To his grieving comrades, he said, “They’ve only got my limbs, I’ve still got my voice — I can still sing!”

Grim picture
You can visit and sign a petition in Bant’s support. Once you’ve done that, give this a thought. Punjab is the land of Sikhism, the faith that started as a healing bridge between Hinduism and Islam.

Why is it that today, that Punjab and Haryana account for maximum violence against Dalits? Was it not at Gohna, a district in Haryana, some months ago that an entire Dalit mohalla was razed?

Are not the Panchayats of western UP and Haryana most infamous for prosecuting Dalits and Jatavs who have relations with upper-caste women?

The divide runs deep
I had a foretaste of the situation in Punjab from Ajay Bhardwaj’s splendid film on Dalit Sufis of Punjab, Kitte Mil ve Mahi. As Sufi-revolutionary Lal Singh Dil, says in Bhardwaj’s film, “The Chamars are Adivasis, the shuruaati log, who were evicted from their lands by usurpers who came later… but the fact is that Chamars in Punjab are in very bad shape.”

The film takes us to the world of Dalit Sufi shrines in Punjab, some of them old, some newly erected as Dalits try and create a syncretic world of icons, images and traditions for a corner of their own.

This Sufism though, does not find many takers among Muslims and on many occasions, Jat Sikhs and other upper castes have come down heavily on these symbols of Dalit assertion, burning down shrines, preventing people from gathering there, restricting worship.

There are also several Dalit gurudwaras in Punjab, as the upper castes would not allow them to worship in others. As another character in Bhardwaj’s film says, “So many Gurus have come and gone but the Dalits are still where they were.”

Root cause
The reason why Bant needed to be so severely put down lies, ironically, in his success. Bant waged a successful resistance for long. Dalits could construct and maintain these shrines as they could organise themselves. Sangthan is the key to the fight against social justice.

I am happy at least one Communist party is trying to do that. Wouldn’t it be nice though if the mahi of Sufi shrines and of Mazdoor Morchas can come together — when shall the twain meet? For a deeper insight into the matter, watch Bharadwaj’s film. Write to

Mahmood Farooqui, Mid-Day