Bathinda police used water guns and lathis to disrupt a protest by teachers under the banner of the Employment Guarantee Scheme (EGS) union at Bhokra village on the Goniana-Bathinda road on Friday. Most of the protesters were women and braved temperatures of less than 8°c and the police action. Teachers were also forcibly bundled in buses and lathicharged.
"We were made to run in the fields and beaten like animals. One of our members also fainted," one of the protesters alleged.
Another member of the action committee Gagan Abohar said, "Villagers of Bhokra, Gill Patti and Akali workers also humiliated us. Eight of our members protested on a water tank."
Supporters raised slogans against the state government and Bathinda MP Harismart Kaur Badal.
Another teacher Avtar Singh said, "We are teaching students in villages on a monthly wage of Rs 1,000. When we demanded regularisation, we were told to complete the ETT course. When we finished the course, we were not even offered Rs 1,000."
He claimed that the union representatives had met chief minister Parkash Singh Badal as well as other officials to no avail.
Sub-divisional magistrate Damanjeet Singh Mann said, "We came to know of the protest at 6 am, when a villager called us. Villagers were worried because some religious function was scheduled here and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal was also scheduled to visit the village for a sangat darshan on January 27."
"No protestor was lathi charged. In a scuffle between protestors and villagers, 50-60 villagers gathered there and protestors jammed traffic. Some of them also stopped a bus belonging to the Baba Farid College and smashed windows."
He claimed that the administration dealt with all protests with a balanced and even hand. Noticeably, political protests by both the ruling Akali Dal and the Congress have been allowed in the recent past.