THE ISSUE of a Dalit farm labourer being physically assaulted during a meeting on paddy transplantation rates at Mansa’s Matti village sarpanch’s house earlier this week continued to boil, with the Mazdoor Mukti Morcha – the Punjab affiliate of the All India Agricultural Labour Association, the agriworker wing of Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation – on Saturday staging a protest outside the Bhikhi Police Station.
The protesters, during their Saturday dharna, demanded an FIR under the SC/ST Act against Matti village sarpanch Sukhwinder Kaur as well.
The police have already lodged a case against landlord Gora Singh, who allegedly slapped the Dalit farm labourer in Matti.
Bhagwant Samao, president of Mazdoor Mukti Morcha, said, “The police have booked Gora Singh on Friday night on charges of physical assault, as well as those under sections of the SC/ST Act. However, the sarpanch is also equally responsible for this incident as she had organised a meeting of both parties (landowners and farm labourers) in her house and in her presence a Dalit farm labourer was assaulted. She has been spared. Hence, we had organised a dharna to demand that she is booked as well.”
The protesters on Saturday also met DSP Jasjot Singh to press forth their demands, who in turn promised to take action against the sarpanch after conducting a probe in the matter.
The farm labourers of Matti, meanwhile, have stopped paddy transplantation work after the village panchayat tried fixing the rates for paddy transplantation at lesser than what was paid last year. The farm labourers were this year initially promised Rs 3500 per acre for paddy retransplantation, which was later slashed to around 2500-2600 an acre by the Matti panchayat. Controversy erupted later after a meeting of landowners and farm labourers, most of who are Dalits, called at the sarpanch’s house to resolve the issue led to the alleged slapping incident on June 15. Samao said,’’ As of now, the Dalits of the village are not being given paddy transplantation work.”
Meanwhile, National Commission for Scheduled Castes ( NCSC) has also taken note of the Dalit woman’s alleged slapping case, the Chairman of the body, Vijay Sampla, issuing a notice to the Government of Punjab.
“As per information received by us, the Dalit land labourers in Matti of Mansa district had a face-off with landowners over rate fixation for paddy transplantation in the village. To resolve the issue, the lady Sarpanch of the village called the landlords and Dalit labourers at her residence. She there allegedly made the Dalit mazdoors sit on the ground where as the landlords were offered chairs. The discussion snowballed with a landowner later slapping a female dalit farm laborer,” said Vijay Sampla, Chairman of NCSC
He added that NCSC has issued notices to Deputy Commissioner Mansa, SSP Mansa, Chief Secretary Punjab and Director General of Punjab Police asking them to submit within seven days, the facts and information on action taken on the allegations/matter.
Sampla cautioned the officers of further action if a reply was not received in the stipulated time frame.