CHANDIGARH: A 40-year-old dalit, Bant Singh, has paid the price through amputation of three of his limbs, as about five years ago he managed to secure justice for his then minor daughter, who was gang raped by upper caste, influential and landed individuals from his Jhabbar village of the remote Mansa district in Punjab.
Doctors in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the PGI’s Emergency ward, are struggling to save his right leg, prevent sepsis and revive his kidneys. They may need many units of blood beyond the seven, which have already been transfused. Bant’s wife, four sons and four daughters, close relatives and activists of some leftists groups look on with grim faces, prepared for the worst.
Various leftist groups and human rights organisations, have demanded that Bant Singh be paid Rs 10 lakh as compensation and be provided an attendant, whose salary be paid by the present Sarpanch of the village. They also seek a Government job for his wife, as the family’s only bread earner, who made a living through working as farm labour and rearing hogs and goats, lay completely disabled. The State organiser of the Liberation faction of the CPI (ML), Jeeta Kaur has announced that her organisation would hold a rally in the village on January 16 to be followed by a `dharna’ in front of the Mansa district civil hospital on January 25. The organisation’s local secretary, Sukhcharan Singh Danewalia narrates that Bant Singh’s ordeal began ever since he resisted all attempts to pressurise or lure him into reaching a compromise with the individuals, who had raped his daughter in the year 2000. Two years later, the trial court convicted three persons, Mandhir Singh, Tarsem Singh and Gurmail Kaur, for their involvement in the case. The three were handed life imprisonment sentences.
During his pursuit for justice, when the village Panchayat apparently decided not to co-operate with him, Bant Singh came in contact with some Leftist groups. He became an activist of the Mazdoor Mukti Morcha and hogged the village limelight after succeeding in getting the ration depot licence of another upper caste influential, Amrik Singh suspended. On the evening of January 5, this year, when he was returning after making enrolments for the forthcoming conference of the Liberation faction of the CPI (ML) scheduled in Andhra Pradesh next month, Bant Singh was waylaid by seven persons, who assaulted him using axes, iron rods and handle of a hand pump. After that they called up Beant Singh of the same village to inform him that his loyal supporter lay battered on the road.
When both his arms and left leg developed gangrene, the local doctors suggested Bant Singh be shifted to Patiala’s Rajendra Medical College and Hospital, from where he was referred to PGI, Chandigarh.
Intriguingly, it was after the Liberation faction of the CPI (ML) and the Democratic Employees’ Forum, highlighted the appalling levels of injustice and official apathy towards Bant Singh, did the Mansa district authorities realise the gravity of the situation. While the district police chief intervened to get the proceedings conducted under section 308 of the IPC and SC/ST Act, a probe has also been ordered to ascertain how the "simple lacerations” in the Mansa civil hospital’s report could lead to amputation of three limbs. So far, seven persons have been arrested, including Sandeep Singh son of Amrik Singh, who was earlier acquitted in the rape case.