Wednesday, April 24, 2024

“10 pellets hit my face and one went deep inside my left eye…”: Farmers targeted with pellet guns

Photo: Vibhu Grover/Maktoob

On 21 February, protesting farmers and labourers completed nine days since they marched to Shambu border and were stopped by Haryana Police from entering Haryana. Tear gas, rubber bullets and pellets were fired at the peaceful unarmed protestors injuring scores of people.

Thousands of farmers are protesting against BJP government for demands including a guaranteed minimum support price (MSP) for their crops and loan waivers, among others.

Gurpreet Singh, a 22 year old from Rajpura arrived at Shambu border with the intention of contributing to the protest by doing seva and making sure all farmers and labourers are well fed as they try to march to Delhi.

“I was walking towards the police force with my hands in the air yelling that I am only coming to talk to them. I was at the barricade when I asked them if they would like to eat anything to which they said no and I left with my friend who was accompanying me.”

As soon as Gurpreet Singh started walking back to the protest site with his friend, the police forces suddenly fired towards them. “As soon as my friend got hit, I quickly turned around to pick him up and carry him to the medical camp, which is when the police fired pellets aiming my face.” Gurpreet was also hit by a tear gas shell on his back.

On 18 February, Haryana Director General of Police (DGP), Shatrujeet Kapur, denied the use of pellet guns against farmers protesting at the Punjab-Haryana Kanauri Border.

A report by the Quint mentions how the claims made by the Haryana DGP are untrue as a medical report accessed by them proved that the farmers have suffered pellet injuries.

Photo: Vibhu Grover/ Maktoob

“Is offering food from langar a crime? We had no weapons and had made our intentions clear. 10 pellets hit my face and one went deep inside my left eye which now needs an operation for which I have to travel to Patiala. How is this fair? Even my brother who was doing seva is injured right now at the hospital after the drone dropped a tear shell on him. Everything that is happening at the protest against us is deeply unfair,” shared Gurpreet. 

Another farmer who was present at the protest and was peacefully waiting for his food at the langar was injured badly after the drone being controlled by Haryana Police fired a tear gas shell on them.

The 25 year old from Amritsar got badly hit and suffered injuries on his head and eye. “We were a group of six or seven standing peacefully when the tear gas shell landed on us. Some others are also at the hospital with me who suffered different kinds of injuries, from deep cuts to damaged hearing.” 

While protestors at Shambu border are coming up with innovative ways to counter the attacks by Haryana Police by using firecrackers and kites to prevent the drone from hitting its target, several protestors who were not even close to the barricades where the police clashed with the farmers report severe injuries due to it. 

“One of our major ten demands include providing justice to the martyrs from the protest of 2020-2021 and for the criminals who murdered the protestors in Lakhimpur Kheri to be punished. And here we have Haryana Police which is under the BJP Government, crossing over to Punjab and attacking us on our own land. Fatally Injuring so many people at Shambu. This government betrayed us back in 2021 and is now doing the same.” Shared Ravinder Singh from Fatehgarh Sahib who was admitted to Rajpura Civil hospital after being hit by a tear gas shell on 21st February.

“The tear gas shells that the police are firing at us makes it difficult for us to breathe for several minutes, for some seconds, it feels like we will die due to the smoke. It is really strong and burns badly all over. Using drones to fire tear gas results in it hitting our heads. Meanwhile the police is also firing pellets resulting in some farmers losing their eyesight” 

As soon as the clashes at the barricades begin, all medical camps are filled with people waiting in line to get treated. Doctors volunteering at the camps say they have lost the count of patients that have come to them with serious injuries and it is endless on days when police clashes with the peaceful protestors.

Everybody has the same question, “How can a government be this evil towards those who provide food which is a basic necessity for any human?” 

Vibhu Grover
Vibhu Grover
Vibhu Grover is an independent photojournalist based in Delhi.
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