'Our world has turned upside down': Dead Mandsaur farmer's family lives in disbelief
Oblivious to the fact that he will never see his father ever again, six-year-old Raghuvendra Dhakad, continues to play with his young cousin, forcing his maternal uncle Lakshmi Narayan to intervene. “Stop playing now,” said his uncle. He then asked Raghu to join the rest of the people who had come to mourn his father's death. “I cried in the morning. Can I play now?” the six-year-old said before disappearing in the nearby field on his bicycle.
“He is just a child and doesn't know what has happened,” said Narayan.
“He did cry when he lit his father's funeral pyre earlier in the morning,” he added. Raghu's father, 30-year-old Ghanshyam Dhakad, breathed his last at the MY Hospital in Indore after being brutally assaulted by the police which was corroborated in the postmortem report.
According to the postmortem report, Ghanshyam died because of grievous injuries to several of his body parts. On Thursday, the 30-year-old farmer was on his way to join protesting farmers who were planning a chakka jaam at a nearby crossing. The protestors were demanding higher support prices for their crops and a loan waiver. Ghanshyam, along with his friend, Ganesh Malviya, were then apprehended by police who then brutally assaulted them with sticks. While Ghanshyam succumbed, Malviya's whereabouts are not known despite assurances from the police that he would be released on Monday.
Earlier, the police had claimed that Ghanshyam's condition deteriorated in custody and was then taken to Indore for further treatment where he succumbed to his injuries. However, the family refuted police's version and said that he died at 11:00 in the night. According to them, the police took his dead body to Indore instead of Mandsaur to ensure that angry protestors didn't hit the streets over his death.
Ever since the news of Ghashyam's death appeared in newspapers, people from across Mandsaur district, including police and government officials, have been making a beeline outside their house in Badavan. In fact, earlier in the day, hundreds came from different parts of Mandsaur to attend his funeral, which was also attended by the SP, DM and local politicians.
Draped in the national flag, his final rites were strikingly similar to that of an armed forces martyr. In fact, his family refers to him a martyr who according to them died fighting the cause of the farmers. However, his wife, Rekha, has been inconsolable ever since she heard the news. Her wails could be heard far away from their dilapidated house which is surrounded by vast expanse of agricultural fields.
A family in mourning
It is 2:00 pm and the entire family is seated in the courtyard, still trying to come to terms with Ghanshyam's death. “He was beaten like a dog and then at 4:00 in the morning on Friday, two police vans came to our house to inform that he has been sent to Indore for further treatment since his condition deteriorated. They made my father sign a blank sheet of paper and asked him to come to Indore as early as possible. Once he reached there, he was told what had happened,” said Ghanshyam's sister Shyamu.
As she narrated the sequence of events, tears rolled down her cheeks. She would fight back her tears but mostly in vain. The moment she looked at Ghanshyam's six-month-old daughter, Shivangi, who slept peacefully in her lap, tears would reappear in Shyamu's eyes. “What was her fault? She would never get the love of a father. He loved her too much. Her mother's condition is also deteriorating fast and the doctor has put her on saline drip. Our world has turned upside down,” she added.
As she spoke, Rekha screamed before fainting once again. “Get her some juice,” Shyamu instructed a girl who rushed to the neighbour's house to get some juice. “It is kept in their refrigerator since we don't own one,” she added.
Meanwhile, Ghanshyam's father bears the look of a man who no longer wishes to live. “My only son is dead and here I am with his 27-year-old wife and these two children. Thank God his mother is not alive to see this day. How will I take care of them when I can't even take care of myself? They have their entire lives ahead of them,” the 60-year-old said.
His daughter asks him to calm down. “If this is what is God's will then let us bear with it. These children need a future and I am just a phone call away,” she assured him. Shyamu lives 10 kilometers away from Badavan and said she will have to visit more often to ensure the family is alright.
The family owns two bighas of land where they would grow garlic, wheat, soyabean, among other crops, to feed the family. But of late, debt had been accumulating because of crop loss and rise in prices of seeds, fertilisers, manure, among other things. “We had a debt of more then Rs 2 lakh and after drought like conditions for the past few years, we had a bumper crop because of a normal monsoon. Little did we know that prices would plummet so quickly that we won't even recover what we invested,” claimed Ghanshyam's father.
It is for this very reason that farmers have been demanding a higher MSP for their produce since they could hardly even recover the input costs. Prices of vegetables dropped drastically due to the bumper crop and farmers across western MP were beginning to feel the pinch forcing them to hit the streets for a better price for their crops.
Anger at Shivraj Chouhan
Meanwhile, the family is relieved that the government has announced a compensation of Rs 1 crore which according to them will be used to ensure a better future for the children. However, they are livid at Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who according to them could sit on a fast at Ramlila Maidan in Bhopal but couldn't come to Mandsaur to share the grief of families who have lost their loved ones.
Six people from Mandsaur district, the epicenter of violent clashes between the farmers and police, have died since Tuesday. On Tuesday, the police fired upon the protesting farmers, leaving five dead and several others injured. Though police has ordered an inquiry into the deaths, locals do not believe that anyone would be held guilty.
According to police, Mandsaur, is finally crawling towards normalcy after the curfew hours were relaxed. On Saturday, the last day of the 10-day long protests, was largely peaceful with curfew hours relaxed between 8 am to 8 pm. Even the supplies of essential goods has been restored. Mandis are likely to reopen from Monday and curfew too should be off after this week.
Amid these developments, there are reports that Pattidar leader Hardik Patel could try and enter the state to address local farmers. A large section of farmers in Mandsaur, including those who died, are Patidars and Patel's efforts to gain entry into the state could yet again see confrontation between the police and farmers.