Bant Singh


Bant Singh

Bant Singh is a lower caste Dalit farmer and singer from the Jhabhar village in Mansa district, Punjab, India, who has emerged as an agricultural labour activist, fighting against the power of the landowner.Amit Sengupta, "Untouchable India", p. 82–84 in "Index on Censorship", Volume 35, Number 4 (2006).] Described by Amit Sengupta as "an icon of Dalit resistance" [Amit Sengupta, [http://www.himalmag.com/2006/october/profile.htm The Dalit sword of Mansa] , "Himāl Southasian", October 2006. Accessed online 13 June 2007.] he has has been active in organizing poor, agricultural workers, activism that continues despite a 2006 attack that cost him both of his lower arms and his left leg."

After his minor daughter was raped by some powerful men in 2000, he dared take them to court, an unusual occurrence when a Dalit is raped by a non-Dalit, braving threats of violence and attempted bribes. The trial culminated in life sentences for three of the culprits in 2004, "the first time that a Dalit from the region who had complained against upper-caste violence had managed to secure a conviction."Annie Zaidi, [http://www.flonnet.com/fl2302/stories/20060210003703300.htm Casteist Assault] , "Frontline" (India), Volume 23 - Issue 02, Jan. 28 - Feb. 10, 2006. Accessed online 13 June 2007.]

On the evening of January 7, 2006 Bant Singh was returning home through some wheat fields. He had just been campaigning for a national agricultural labour rally to be held in Andhra Pradesh in January. He was suddenly waylaid by a gang of seven men, suspected to be sent by Jaswant and Niranjan Singh, the current and former headmen of his village who have links with the Indian National Congress party. One of them brandished a revolver to prevent any resistance while the other six set upon him with iron rods and axes beating him to pulp.

He was left for dead, and a phone call was made to Beant Singh, a leading man in Jhabhar, to pick up the dead body. However, Bant Singh was alive, though barely.

When he was taken to the Mansa Civil Hospital, the doctor in attendance, Dr. Purushottam Goel, demanded a fee of Rs1000 (US$22) before he would treat him. He lay untreated for 36 hours while the hospital authorities refused him any treatment (Bant claims they were influenced by Congress leaders). Eventually, he was taken to the PGI at Chandigarh, where both lower arms and one leg had to be amputated since gangrene had set in, and his kidneys had collapsed due to blood loss. The doctor was eventually suspended for his conduct.Amit Sengupta, "Untouchable India", p. 82–84 in "Index on Censorship", Volume 35, Number 4 (2006), p. 83, mentions the incident, the bribe demand, and the damage to his limbs, and the doctor's suspension; citation needed for the hospital and doctor's names, kidney damage, gangrene.]

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