Farmers Protest: Martyrs

   Posted by: aman   in Punjab

Day 229

Toll 538



Three days back it was Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal’s birthday. Badal announced that if his party wins Panjab elections, his government will compensate all the martyrs on the farmers protest with one government job per family, free education for children and health education for life.

What irony! This is the same party that neglected agrarian woes for the decade they were in power in Panjab. This was the period when the agrarian crises in the nation and in the food bowl of India – Panjab – deepened. According to university studies 16006 farmers and labourers committed suicide. The reporting was fudged.

I witnessed the White Fly protests in Panjab in late 2015, reported on it, wrote about it in my book. As the protests were on, incidents of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib came to light. The people’s attention was distracted. This has been the government tactic for decades now. It has been over five years, the sacrilege issue is still not sorted despite two commissions, various Special Task Forces. The threads of most investigations point to Dera Sacha Sauda, enabled by Badals.

Of course, families of those who have departed must be helped. Their loans written off, their children educated, their families must be taken care. The Sikh Gurdwara management body SGPC – again controlled by Badals – announced a relief of Rs 1 lakh per martyr family in December 2020. When that did not go anywhere, now to gain a foothold in the farmers protest, when SAD declares compensation. Sorry to sound harsh, it sounds like ‘ambulance chasing’.

While announcing the package, Badal said, ’550 farmers have lost their lives.’ You see the toll on all my posts. The number today is 538. Where did Badal get 550 from? Or is he rounding off, wishing more people die at the protests? How cruel and uncouth is that?
Actually, you will see that number elsewhere too. On some other social media handles on twitter and Instagram. There is a bit of a story behind it.

The number on my post comes from the blog that Anu Sandhu , Amar Mander, Jai Singh Sandhu, Harender Happy have diligently maintained since the protests started. The numbers in this blog come from newspaper reports, social media, information from farmer unions, individual input. They are reconciled every few days and published. It is meticulous and strenuous work. That it is about deaths makes it even more difficult.

I believe, hardly has any such large protest in the world ever generated such exact statistics. They are, in many ways, sacrosanct. They tell us exactly what is going on and will also be a huge resource for historians.

In mid-June, the team collating the numbers suddenly noticed a drop in reporting on the deaths in local Panjabi media. No Hindi media has reported them consistently. We spoke to some of the major newspapers and they promised to resume reporting. That have done it. The team is very thankful to them.

However, in this period ABP news suddenly projected a number which can’t be verified. On June 27, ABP Panjabi reported 540 farmers had died. Some other media and Instagram handles also did that. I can’t say if they they were averaging and extrapolating or they have evidence. No evidence for that number is available.

That is why, I believe the number is 338, elaborately referenced in this blog. Let us please not run other numbers. To me it is disrespectful to those who have departed and to the close to eight month long farmers protest.

Click here for the blog.

This entry was posted on Monday, July 12th, 2021 at 8:34 am and is filed under Punjab. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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