With the ongoing agitation in and around the national capital in its third week, Opposition leaders have lambasted the Prime Minister Modi-led government for the deadlock. Thousands of farmers have gathered around the national capital, demanding that three contentious farm Acts be repealed. Multiple rounds of talks have not elicited the desired response thus far.
But while the farmers remain determined to stay put until they achieve their aim, it appears to be taking a heavy toll on the community. Thus far, more than 20 people linked to the protests have passed away. While some died in accidents, others have committed suicide or simply passed away while contending with the chilly winter weather. While an exact list of names with all the casualties is not available, on December 15, protesting farmers at the Singhu Border had paid homage to 20 farmers who have died since the agitation began.
In the last day and a half alone, there have been two tragic incidents, with a Sikh priest committing suicide and another farmer passing away allegedly due to the cold weather. Baba Ram Singh had shot himself after joining the protest at the Delhi-Sonipat border at Kundli. In a widely shared suicide note, he had noted that he was sacrificing his life "to express anger and pain against the government's injustice".
For the last 20 days lakhs of farmers are sitting all around Delhi. 20 farmers have died. What kind of an inconsiderate and obdurate Modi Govt is this? What is this arrogance of power that has gone to the head of the Prime Minister, Agriculture Minister and Ministers of this Govt?" asked Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala on Thursday. A few days earlier, on December 9, he had shared a list of names, purportedly of the casualties incurred till then. The tally has more than doubled since then.
Many other opposition leaders including Congress leader Rahul Gandhi have hit out at the Modi government over the rising death toll.
Early on December 15, at least two farmers were killed and eight others injured after a truck hit their tractor-trolley in Haryana’s Karnal district. The group had been returning to Patiala from the Delhi border. An Indian Express article identifies them as Gurpreet Singh and Labh Singh from Saferal village in Patiala. In another similar incident, a trolley carrying farmers was returning from Delhi when it was hit by a mini truck near Bhagomajra village. Two farmers, Deep Singh and Sukhdev Singh, were killed.
On the same day, 67-year-old Gurmeet Singh from Mohali died after falling ill while protesting at the Singhu border. Reportedly, he had been affected by the cold weather. Another farmer, Makkhan Khan from Punjab's Moga had died of a heart attack in the national capital.
There had also been several deaths in the early days of the protests. At the end of November, 57-year-old Janak Raj had gone to the Delhi-Haryana border to repair six tractors of the farmers. His efforts to show solidarity with the protesters however ended in tragedy. He was burnt alive after the car he was sleeping in caught fire.
45-year-old Dhanna Singh's march to Delhi was cut short in November after the tractor-trolley he was travelling in was hit by a truck. And on November 29, Ghajjan Singh from Ludhiana reportedly passed away from a heart attack while at the Delhi border near Bahadurgarh.
(With inputs from agencies)