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“I would have nothing left to feed my six kids” says Rajkumar, an oppressed Dalit farmer

"I begged them not to destroy the crop but they did not stop. They did it last year too and my debts have gone up."

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“I was left with no choice. I begged them not to destroy the crop but they did not stop. They did it last year too and my debts have gone up. One more round of destruction and I knew I would have nothing to feed my six children,’’ says Rajkumar Ahirwar, 38, lying on one of the beds in the medical ward of Guna district hospital, going over the events of July 14.

Rajkumar and his wife along with his small children on a hospital bed (credits: The Indian Express)

The video of the policeman beating Shishupal, Rajkumar’s brother and his mother Geeta had led to widespread outrage following the suspension of six policemen and transfer of the District Collector and the Superintendent of Police.

On 14th July, Rajkumar and his wife, Savitri consumed pesticides as an anti-encroachment team of the police and revenue officials began destroying their soybean crop. When the unconscious Dalit couple was bundled in a police van to be taken to a hospital, Shishupal blocked the way, leading to a lathi charge.

Back on their disputed land, the soybean crop lies partially destroyed. In one corner of the field is a tarpaulin shack, in another a semi pucca house, both of which the Ahirwar family shared. Standing outside the tarpaulin shack, Rajkumar’s younger brother, Shishupal and mother Geeta show the injuries on their bodies from the police beatings of three days ago.

Savirti lying unconscious after consuming pesticides (credit: The Indian Express)

“We folded our hands and requested them to wait at least until the crop was harvested in about two months. We did not say we own the land or that we will not vacate it,’’ says Geeta, showing dark purple bruises on her legs. The administration has been saying that the land is owned by the government and is reserved for a model college. Before his transfer, Guna collector S Vishwanathan had said that any further delay in clearing the land would have meant that the college project would have been shifted to another district.

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Rajkumar Ahirwar said they have no complaints against Gabbu Pardhi, the man who has claimed ownership of the over 40-bigha land in Jaganpur Chakk, on Guna’s outskirts. Last year, Pardhi moved the Madhya Pradesh High Court to challenge earlier orders of the Gwalior Additional Commissioner, a sub-divisional officer and a tehsildar, all of whom had rejected his claim to ownership of the land.

The dreadful scene of crying children after their parents consumed pesticides as a suicide bid. ( credit: The Quint)

With the matter still pending in court, the Guna administration had tried to take possession of the land to which the Pardhi family refused.“Patta se bada kabja hota hai (ownership is determined by occupation, not a revenue document),’’ Pardhi added. Talking of the suicide bid by the Ahirwar’s, Pardhi says, “They consumed pesticide. If they take away our land, we will either lie on the railway tracks or hang to death.’’
The pictures of the small children lying near to their unconscious parents went viral and now they have adjusted themselves in small hospitals beds along with uncertainty and no hope.

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