Nine years after Bant Singh lost his arms and a leg in a murderous assault, the Dalit farm-labour activist and revolutionary singer of Jhabbar village in Mansa district continues to wait for the Punjab government’s promised compensation of 5 acres and a government job for wife.
In these years of struggle, he has become a hero to landless peasants.
On Wednesday, he captivated the youth at a college festival here with his presentation of Sant Ram Udasi’s song motivating the Dalits of Punjab to rise against deprivation.
Punjab and Haryana governor Kaptan Singh Solanki was present to honour him for his bravery, but Bant Singh took the opportunity to remind the state government of its promise through a memorandum to the VIP, in which he has described his struggle to survive without the financial aid assured in 2006.
The activist’s wife and son were with him.
“I have lost my limbs, but not my tongue, and that is enough for me to spread my word around. I will continue to fight and sing about the struggle of my life,” said Bant Singh after he recited Udasi’s song: “Asi jar na julm di chhadni, sadi bhave jar na rahe (We will uproot oppression, even if they eliminate us along with root). He was family’s only breadwinner but since the brutal incident 9 years ago, his wife has been taking care of the house by working as labourer despite fighting partial paralysis.”
“My daily earnings of Rs 150-200 are inadequate to feed the family. Kitne saalon se bas intezaar kar rahein hain, sarkar ki taraf se koi madad nahi mili (We have been waiting for years for the official help that never came,” said his wife, Harbans Kaur.
The money given to Bant Singh after the attack went into making a pucca house, putting his eight children in school, and getting five of them married. The children couldn’t complete their education.
“We were forced to remind the governor in writing about the other promises,” he said.
Fought for justice
Fighting threats of violence, Dalit labourer Bant Singh had brought justice to his minor daughter gangraped by upper-caste, politically connected, rich farmers of his village. It was a rare victory for a Dalit in court against upper caste men. For his brave struggle, they cut his three limbs in 2006. Armless, he became the voice of labour activists against oppressive landowners. The-then Congress government in Punjab awarded his Rs10-lakh compensation, and later, the family was promised government job for a member, besides 5 acres of Panchayati land.
Video below: Bant Singh in conversation with his biographer and HT consultant Nirupama Dutt at the Jaipur Literature Festival 2016