Reports of a Dalit farmer couple consuming pesticide to protest against an anti-encroachment drive and a video showing police personnel allegedly beating up a relative in response in Madhya Pradesh’s Guna has kicked up a storm, with political parties condemning the high-handedness of cops. The couple is now stable.
A video that has gone viral shows Ramkumar Ahirwar, 38, and Savitri Devi, 35, resisting the police dragging them into an ambulance while some personnel beat up Ahirwar’s younger brother. A photograph of the children of Savitri crying next to their unconscious mother also were making the rounds on social media.
Ramkumar Ahirwar had reportedly encroached upon parts of a 45-bigha land that has been allotted for the construction of a government post-graduate college, sanctioned two years ago, on the outskirts of Guna.
The incident happened on Tuesday, when officials arrived with a bulldozer to remove the encroachments. An attempt to clear it in November last year had been blocked by the family of Gappu Pardhi, who claims to own the land.
Ahirwar told the officials that he had taken the land on lease and raised a loan to cultivate it, and the family would have no option but to end their lives if their crop was destroyed. After the couple consumed pesticide, the police had booked them as well as others for trying to obstruct public officials on duty.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan removed District Collector S Vishwanathan and SP Tarun Nayak on Wednesday and ordered a probe into the incident. Home Minister Narottam Mishra said senior officials from Bhopal will probe the incident and take action against whoever was responsible.
Before being removed, Collector Vishwanathan said that the police had to use force as Ahirwar’s relatives were not letting them take the couple to hospital after they consumed pesticide. He further said the government had sanctioned Rs 12 crore for construction of the college and any further delay could have resulted in it being shifted to another district.
“The (farm) land was reserved for a government model college. Rajkumar Ahirwar and his wife Savitri were working on the land. Gappu Pardhi, who had encroached on the land, had given them work. When officials asked them to vacate the field, they protested and drank pesticide at the behest of those who had encroached on the land,” Vishwanathan said.
Former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath said the video of police officers thrashing Ahirwar’s relatives and bundling them into a vehicle showed that it was “jungle raj” in the state.
“If there was some dispute about the land, it could have been solved legally… Will the government show similar alacrity in clearing encroachment on thousands of acres of government land by so-called jan sevaks (people’s servants)?” the Congress leader asked.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, while sharing the video of the assault on Twitter, said, “Our fight is against this mindset and injustice”.