Editorial: Third Edition
The kings are tigers, and their officials are dogs;
they go out and awaken the sleeping people to harass them.
The public servants inflict wounds with their nails.
- Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji
During and after the Republic Day tractor parade, Delhi Police first registered a total of 18 legal cases. A few days later, four more cases were registered, bringing the total to 22. 20 additional FIRs were registered against unknown people. Initially, 122 farmers were lodged in jails on false charges. The arrests continued until February 8, bringing the total number of detained protesters to 149.
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha constituted a five-member committee headed by Punjab and Haryana High Court advocate Prem Singh Bhangu. "There was a dire need for local lawyers to fight the cases in Delhi. We neither knew the courts, nor the police stations. We did not have an office and other paraphernalia around carrying out this legal battle with the Delhi courts. We were still anticipating the next steps when we got in touch with the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee.” Meanwhile, Manjinder Singh Sirsa, president of the DSGMC, was mobilizing lawyers to help the farmers locked up in jails and police stations. Shortly, a meeting was held at Rakabganj Gurudwara where about 150 lawyers gathered with a resolve to free the detained protestors.
An 11-member committee comprising 5 members from the Morcha was formed. The office was kept at the Gurdwara where daily meetings were held to discuss the legal proceedings. Many lawyers including Rajinder Singh Cheema, Poonam Kaushal, Harbir Singh Bhullar, Jagdeep Singh Kahlon, Chitwan Godara offered their legal expertise for free (as a ‘langar’ service).
This organised endeavour proved successful with bail being granted to all 149 farmers and laborers who were detained by Delhi police in the aftermath of the tractor march. It must be mentioned that those who were charged under Section 307 (Intention to Murder) have also been released. SKM and DSGMC offered monetary support of Rs 2,000 to the jailed protestors for personal expenses, along with clear instructions to not pay the bail bond amount in cash. Most bail bonds were paid by the SKM and DSGMC. In addition to the 149 detained farmers, there were about 40 protesters who went missing. Bhangu said that most of them have been identified, though 12 are still missing. The Joint Committee will also file a Habeas Corpus application for the 12 missing persons in the Delhi High Court.
Additionally, legal notices are being sent by the Delhi Police to the people who participated in the tractor parade. This is just a ploy to harass those who are demanding their rights. "These notices are simply useless. But we are applying advance bail if needed," Bhangu said. Anti-repression day (zabar virodhi dihara) was observed on February 24 by the Morcha against the repression of the Delhi Police and the misuse of the Constitution and legal framework by the Central Government.
Chitwan Godara from Haryana who studied law at Delhi University, started filing bail applications January 27 onwards. "It is because of our common legal front that more than 100 protestors are out today. I feel proud of putting my formal education to good use."
The government, which has resorted to illegal maneuvers, has forgotten that the country belongs to those who defended the Constitution enacted in 1952 on Republic Day. Unconstitutional attacks by the Delhi Police, the central government and the sold-out media on Republic Day have intensified the public sentiment. Farm union leaders have reached Bengal and will be onwards to Tamil Nadu, Assam, Kerala which are set to go to the polls in April. The struggle which started against economic inequality and preferential treatment to a handful of corporates has now taken the shape of a mass political change. “Modi is anti-farmer”, this slogan will prove to be an important step in bridging the gap between the system and the masses and reinstate faith in democracy .