Village Kasar in Bahadurgarh of Jhajjar district of Haryana is Brahmin dominated hamlet. Mukesh, 42, was a resident of this village. He had succumbed to burn injuries after fellow farmer protestors allegedly set him ablaze at the Tikri border protest site on Wednesday. Villagers say that this was a conspiracy to make him appear a ‘martyr’ against the farm laws.
Kasar village is on Delhi-Hisar road. When one moves towards Hisar from Delhi, one side of the road at the Tikri border is squatted by farmer protesters. They have built tents on roads and are currently residing there. Kasar village is on a road adjacent to this highway, known as bypass.
A road separates from the bypass which leads to Kasar village. There are fields on both sides of this road. A township project of Omaxe is underway nearby. There is a gymnasium at the start of the village. There are ponds, and a large field too. After this begins the settlement, in which one of the streets is the house of 70-year-old Jagdish Chandra. Jagdish Chandra is Mukesh’s father. When OpIndia reached this village on Friday (18 June 2021), a blanket of eerie silence swept the place. The villagers were still in shock over the horrifying fate of Mukesh.
When we tried to talk to grieving father, Jagdish Chandra, regarding the unfortunate incident, he refused to face the camera. Weeping bitterly, he painfully wondered about the future of Mukesh’s family. Mukesh is survived by his wife Renu and 9-year-old son Rahul. Mukesh was the eldest of three brothers. Jagdish Chandra is not as fortunate as the ones who are sitting on protests around the Delhi borders. His family does not have a piece of land to be put to use for agriculture. Chandra’s sons did odd works to feed their family. Mukesh worked as a driver. Because of the lockdown, Mukesh was idle and had no work. Thinking about his son who was burnt alive, Chandra says, “All I want is that those guilty should be punished and the government should take care of Mukesh’s family.”
‘Agitators burnt my son’: Mukesh’s mother
OpIndia talked to the bereaved mother, who is still finding it hard to come to grips with the reality that her son was allegedly killed by agitators pretending to be fighting for the rights of farmers. Shakuntala, Mukesh’ mother remembers her son left the house on Wednesday evening for a walk to the nearby field. When we asked her who killed her beloved son, Shakuntala says the protesters killed him. Mukesh had that evening gone for a walk to the nearby field, where farmers protesting against the three farm laws had put up their tents.
‘Sprayed petrol on my husband and set him on fire’: Mukesh’s widow Renu
Mukesh’s widow Renu said she was informed about the godawful incident by her brother-in-law. She says her husband was in good spirits when he left the house on Wednesday evening at around 5 pm. Renu says her husband even told her to prepare food as he would be back soon. She had asked him to take his mobile phone along with him, but he refused, saying he is going to return soon.
Surmising about the sequence of events that led up to her husband’s brutal murder, Renu says, “He might have gone there. Those people would have offered him alcohol and when he was in an intoxicated state, they sprayed petrol on him and set him on fire. He has sustained severe burn injuries. With whom shall I live now? We have a small child, who will support him now?”
When we asked Renu if Mukesh was a frequent drinker of alcohol, she said, “He used to drink but so much as to harm himself. These Sardar folks are lying, they have done this thing. These people are not farmers. These people are criminals. They are perpetually drunk and always under the influence of alcohol. It’s been a year, these people are not going from here. They have created chaos over here.”
On being asked if there was any dispute with the protesters before, Renu denied saying she was not aware of any disagreement with them. “I expect the government to punish the criminals. Whoever has done this to me should be punished. If the culprits are not brought to justice, I will go there and immolate myself. I will not come under anyone’s control. I will not forget this incident. Today, it has happened with my husband, tomorrow it will happen to someone else. For how long will anyone tolerate them?” Renu asked.
Mukesh’s younger brother Manjeet says a man from his village works at a petrol pump. He was the first to inform them about the incident at around 9 pm on Wednesday night. Manjeet says when they rushed to the spot, they found Mukesh with severe burn injuries. They took him to Civil Hospital Bahadurgarh and then to PGI Rohtak, where Mukesh died. Manjeet says, “At the civil hospital, we asked who was responsible for his condition. He told us there were three or four men. They had stopped him and warned him that they will “collectively” send him home.
‘The administration should remove this disease which is lying on the road’
For Manjeet, who lost his brother, those protesting at the Delhi borders are not farmers. He says farmers don’t wield sword and kill others, they plough their fields and feed the nation. According to Manjeet, Mukesh might have been murdered in the name of ‘martyrdom’ against the farm laws. He says the incident has left deep scars on the people of the village and everyone is angry with the so-called protesters. He further added that a one-week ultimatum has been given to the administration. Manjeet warns that if the perpetrators are not brought to justice then there will be a one-to-one fight with the protesters.
Manjeet, however, says his family is satisfied with the role of the administration in this matter so far. At the same time, he says they do not want to link this matter to caste and religion. All they want is that the guilty should be punished. “This is a disease which is lying on the road. If the administration does not remove it, many innocent lives will be lost,” Manjeet said while referring to the protesting farmers.
Speaking to OpIndia, the sarpanch of the village, Tony Kumar, said he received information about the incident at around 9 pm on Wednesday. He says, “Mukesh was badly burnt when I reached the spot. When we were taking him to Civil Hospital Bahadurgarh, he told us that a farmer sprinkled petrol on him and another one lit a matchstick. He also told their names. Krishna, Pradeep, Sandeep.”
Sarpanch says Rakesh Tikait responsible for triggering caste violence
The sarpanch further explains, “After taking Mukesh to the hospital, I came to the farmers’ tent and called after Krishna. A man came out who was in an inebriated state. When I told him Mukesh named him for setting him on fire, Krishna responded back with a casteist slur.” After this incident, Tony Kumar took to Facebook and claimed that Mukesh was targeted for being a ‘Brahmin’.
When OpIndia asked him why he believes that Mukesh was attacked because of his caste, the sarpanch said that he has a video of Krishna admitting that Mukesh was targeted because he was a Brahmin. Kumar also claims that BKU leader Rakesh Tikait is the mastermind of the entire conspiracy. Kumar cites Tikait’s anti-Brahmin remarks he had made in December 2020. “When their leaders spew venom, those below them are expected to do the same thing. I strongly suspect a conspiracy behind the death of Mukesh, orchestrated by the protesters to defame the government,” Tony said.
‘These are butchers, not farmers’: Village head Tony Kumar
Following the incident, Tony Kumar said that he does not want any farmer leader to come to their village. “These are butchers, not farmers. The administration is fully cooperating with us. We have given a week’s time for the removal of the tents put up by the farmers. If they are not removed in a week, we will take law into our own hands,” Kumar said.
Kasar village’s contribution to ‘farmers’ protest
When inquired about how the Kasar village is supporting the alleged farmers’ agitation, Tony responded that they fulfil the responsibility entrusted to them by the village khap. The main task, he says, is to collect donations from the village and give it to the ‘agitators’. Mukesh’s brother Sanjeet admitted to pooling money in the village for the ‘protesters’. However, the people in the village have refused to actively participate in the protests.
As per Tony, despite provocative statements made by Rakesh Tikait, the villagers have donated to the cause of the farmers. He says, “We don’t want to spoil the atmosphere. We want to maintain brotherhood. But they are trying to vitiate the atmosphere. Complaints of agitators harassing the people after getting drunk in the evening have become fairly common here.”
Villagers accuse protesters of molesting women
In the complaint given to the administration (copy of which is with OpIndia), the villagers have said, “For the last 6-7 months, the alleged farmers have created a ruckus on the road adjoining village Kasar. They come to the village and create chaos after drinking alcohol. They ride on tractors, molest women, and bully others. They should be removed from the periphery of village Kasar with immediate effect.”
Did Mukesh commit suicide?
Kisan Ekta Morcha has released a vague video claiming that Mukesh was troubled by homelessness and committed suicide. Mukesh’s family and the people of Kasar have rubbished this claim. Everyone has only one question: when the incident happened on Wednesday night, why was the video released after so long? The family says they have the last-minute video statement of Mukesh, which clarifies what happened to him.
Sarpanch Tony Kumar asks if Mukesh was not troubled when he left his house, then why did he go and set his own tent on fire? When he left the house, he had no money to buy liquor or petrol. Mukesh’s brother Sanjeet also says that he has a video of his brother’s statement, while the video released by farmers’ organizations is not genuine. Mukesh’s wife Renu claims that the voice in the video released by the Kisan Morcha is not of her husband. She says, “We were together for ten years. Won’t I recognize his voice?” Shakuntala also claims that the voice in the video released by farmer organizations is not that of her son.
Besides a horrifying tragedy that befell Mukesh, it is worth noting that farmer protests have also come under criticism for instances of rape and molestation being reported from the protest sites. On Republic Day this year, the entire country witnessed how the so-called protesters stormed the national capital and ran riot under the pretext of carrying out a peaceful tractor rally. It is not just Mukesh or his relatives that have suffered from the farmers’ protests. This pain is shared by people living in the villages close to the protest sites. Perhaps, villagers are persistently worried as to becomes the next victim of this conspiracy.