SITTING ON a charpoy in their two-room house, Sukhdeep Kaur, 17, says not a single day goes by when she doesn’t think of her father Dhanna Singh. The 45-year-old died in a road accident in the early hours of November 27, 2020, while on his way to Singhu border to protest against the three farm laws, making him among the earliest casualties of the ‘Delhi Chalo’ morcha, when hundreds of farmers from Punjab and Haryana had marched to the Capital.
Now, with the farm laws repealed, Sukhdeep says she misses her father sorely but this “is no time for tears. Crying make you weak. This is a big victory of farmers that was possible because of the sacrifices of many, including my father”.
That day, Dhanna Singh, with Baljinder Singh, 28, and a few other villagers, were on their way to Delhi from their village Khiyali Chehlan Wali in Mansa district when a truck hit their tractor trolley from the rear. Dhanna came under the tyre of the tractor while Baljinder’s left hand was crushed. Driver Gora Singh, 38, sustained minor injuries.
Baljinder recalls, “After the accident, his family did get financial help, but no money can make up for the void they feel. His children keep saying that they wish their father had only sustained injuries like me. At least he would have been with them now.”
Baljinder says he is still undergoing treatment at PGI, Chandigarh, for his damaged arm.
Dhanna Singh was the village granthi and secretary of the village unit of Bharatiya Kisan Union, Dakaunda faction. His wife Manjit Kaur, 40, says, “He used to motivate people to be part of the Dilli Chalo morcha. We had sent him to Delhi with a lot of hope; instead, it was his body that came back. Though my husband died much before he could reach Delhi, my children and I have visited Singhu and Tikri a number of times,” Kaur said.
Her son Harvinder Singh, 14, adds, “I also visit dharnas in Mansa often.”
After Dhanna Singh’s death, the Punjab government gave Kaur a job on compassionate grounds — as a peon in a government senior secondary school where Harvinder is in Class 8.
With Kaur drawing a monthly salary of Rs 18,000, the family decided to let out their 2.5-acre farm land on contract to Dhanna’s younger brother. Kaur was also given a compensation of Rs 5 lakh by the Punjab government, Rs 4 lakh by the Haryana Government and Rs 1 lakh by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC). Some help poured in from NRIs too.
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi announcing a repeal of the farm laws, Kaur says her husband’s soul will be at peace. “I am glad that the announcement came on Babaji’s (Guru Nanak) birthday,” she says, as her children interrupt firmly: “We will struggle till the time the laws are not actually taken back.”
Kaur nods. “Yes, we have been protesting from Day 1 of the ordinances. I wish the PM had understood the spirit of the farmers… So many precious lives could have been saved,” she says, before adding, “Zindagi taan jeeni hai… bachhe kuchh vadda kar jaan (Anyway, this life has to be lived. I hope the children do well.”