People who believe farmers protesting against the three farm laws in Delhi are having fun should think again. At least 60 of them have lost their lives till January 4 since the ‘Dilli chalo’ protests started on November 24 — that is more than one death a day on an average.
On the 40th day of the protest, ie, on January 3, four died because of cold. With this, the number of farmers who have died during the protest has touched 60.
Two protesters suffered cardiac arrest at the Singhu border on January 3 (Sunday). Fifty two-year-old Kulbeer Singh of Gangana village in Gohana of Sonepat district and 45-year-old Shamsher Singh of Lidhra village of Sangrur district in Punjab were found dead in their tents.
Another farmer, Yudhishter Singh, also suffered a heart attack after he heard of Kulbeer Singh’s death. Yudhishter Singh’s condition is serious and he has been referred to a hospital in Rohtak.
Two others, one from Punjab and another from Haryana, died at Tikri border on January 3. One of them, Jashanpreet Singh from Bathinda, was just 18 years old and the other, Jagveer Singh, 66, hailed from Ital Kalan village in Jind district. A total of 12 protesters have died so far at the Tikri border. Of them, two died in accidents.
A farmer also died by suicide at the Ghazipur border. In his suicide note, he held the government responsible for his death and demanded that his last rites be performed at the Ghazipur border.
Jaspreet Singh, a farmer from Jalandhar, told The Federal that all the farmers are in a state of shock. “Every day, we see at least one of our farmer brothers die. But we continue to protest with tears in our eyes. People believe we are having fun, but the fact is that we have to lend a shoulder to one corpse every day.”
Most of the farmers who died were the only bread winners of their families. “They sacrificed their lives for the agrarian community and we will do everything for their families now,” he added.
Cold-induced heart attack common
A cold wave has gripped Delhi as icy winds blowing from the snow-covered western Himalayas has brought the minimum temperature down to as low as 1 degrees Celsius — the lowest in the city this season — the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said. The ‘insane cold’ is likely to continue in Delhi in the coming days, the IMD stated.
Doctors said that most deaths occurred due to severe cold as farmers are being exposed to extreme weather conditions at the Tikri and Singhu borders. Of the 60 deceased, a majority died due to cold-induced heart attack, while others died either by accident or suicide.
Dr J S Punia, chairperson of Civil Hospital in Sonipat, told The Federal that post-mortem reports suggest that the dead had enlarged hearts, which confirms heart attack as the cause of death.
Dr Mridul Sarkar, a doctor treating protesting farmers at the Singhu border, said that cold weather conditions weaken the heart because it has to work harder to keep the body warm.
“Cold makes the flow of blood difficult, leading to formation of blood clots. A heart attack usually occurs when a clot blocks blood flow to the heart. Farmers on the Delhi border are exposed to extreme cold, which may cause Myocardial infarction, commonly known as a heart attack,” Dr Punia said.
Dr Sarkar said several protesters are suffering from chronic diseases and hypertension. “The farmers are under pressure which becomes worse for those suffering from hypertension. Many of them are in depression because they think the new laws will take away their livelihood,” Dr Sarkar said.
“Hypertension also makes a person prone to heart attack. Some farmers also have a history of chronic illnesses and diabetes. On top of it, they have travelled long distances which has had an impact on their health. Delhi is far more polluted and noisy than any town in Punjab. These things also make them prone to heart attacks,” he said.
The number of protesters is rising
Despite the extreme weather and suffering, the number of farmers on the Delhi borders continues to rise. Even the families of the deceased have not given up as they send other members to the protest site in Delhi. Baldev Singh, a 76-year-old farmer from Punjab, died of cold on December 8. Now, his son Raghuvir Singh has joined the protest.
Talking to The Federal, Raghuvir said, “My father died of cold. After Haryana cops used water cannons, he caught fever and had other associated health problems, which claimed his life. My father laid down his life for farmers and we are proud of him. I have joined the protest now because I don’t want his sacrifice to go waste. His last wish was to get the farm laws repealed, and I will keep demonstrating till my last breath.”
Rakesh Tikait, national spokesperson of Bhartiya Kisan Union, held the government responsible for all the 60 deaths. “The government tried several tricks to break our peaceful protest, but never uttered a single word on these untimely deaths. This is shameful and shows that the government doesn’t care about farmers.”
Congress Rajya Sabha MP Deepender Hooda also demanded financial assistance and jobs for the family members of those who lost their lives during the protest.
Hooda said, “The government is insensitive towards the sacrifices of farmers. It should give up its stubbornness and repeal the three farm laws with immediate effect. The farmers who lost their lives here should be given the status of martyrs and their family members should be provided government jobs and financial help.”
Hooda said the farmers are running the biggest movement of the country with complete solidarity. “Instead of accepting their demands, the government is trying to suppress their voices. The more they suppress the voice of dissent, the louder it will get,” he said.