A group of farmers in Punjab’s Bathinda district allegedly forced a government official, who was part of a team working to prevent farm fires, to set a heap of paddy stubble on fire, sparking a sharp condemnation from Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann who termed the incident as an “inhuman crime” against the people of the state.
Police lodged an FIR in the matter after Mann issued an order. Bathinda Deputy Commissioner Showkat Ahmad Parray too had written to the senior superintendent of police, asking him to register an FIR against the farmers for preventing the official from discharging his duty.
The incident took place in Mehma Serja village Friday afternoon when a Public Works Department team led by a sub-divisional engineer Harpreet Sagar reached the village to stop farmers from setting the paddy stubble on fire.
However, as soon as the team reached the village, a group of nearly one hundred farmers — all members of Bharatiya Kisan Union Sidhupur — gheraoed it, and raised slogans against the government. The farmers then took the officials to a nearby farm and forced Sagar to set on fire a heap of paddy stubble. They also made a video, which was shared widely on social media.
In the video, farmers could be heard saying that those who came to stop stubble burning were made to set the crop residue on fire. The video also shows that the official’s hand was held by two farmers, as they force him to set the stubble on fire with a matchstick.
“When he (official) was mobbed, what option he could have. He had no choice,” said an official from the DC office.
The team was allowed to leave only after Harpreet Sagar lit the heap of straw. Farmers also asked Sagar to give it in writing that he won’t stop the farmers ever again from burning paddy stubble, something that the PWD official refused to do.
The DC said an FIR has been lodged in the matter and those who were behind the incident will be put behind the bars. “Lawlessness is not something that we will tolerate,” said the DC, adding that the BKU Sidhupur union leaders met him, disowned the act and apologised to the officials.
Bathinda SSP Gulneet Singh Khurana said a case has been registered under sections 342 (wrongful confinement), 353 (assault or deter against a public servant from performing duty), 186 (voluntary obstruction of public servant), 506 (criminal intimidation), 188 (disobedience of a law duly promulgated by a public servant), and 149 (unlawful assembly) of the Indian Penal Code in the matter. The FIR has been registered against nine persons by name and several unidentified people, the SSP said, adding the case has been filed based on a complaint by SDE Sagar. He said further probe into the case was underway.
Earlier, taking cognisance of the video, CM Mann, in a strongly worded post on X, said: “Dear Punjabis, which way are you are heading? Guru Sahib ji has given air the status of Guru…to destroy this, we are ending oxygen meant for our children by taking matchsticks in our hands”.