SKM to probe allegation that farmer leaders were aware of sexual assault of Bengal activist

NEW DELHI: The Samyukta Kisan Morcha on Monday said it will probe the allegations that some of its leaders were aware of the reported sexual assault of a woman activist at Tikri border protest site, who later died due to COVID-19 at a private hospital in Haryana.

“We have seen reports on television that some farmer leaders at Tikri border were aware about the assault and they did not take any action. We cannot confirm these reports at present, but we assure you that we will probe these allegations and take strict action,” farmer leader Yogendra Yadav said at a virtual press conference.

With regard to the various reports in media and social media about an incident of sexual harassment and assault against a woman colleague who came to join the Morcha from Bengal, the SKM makes is abundantly clear that it stands with the struggle for justice for our deceased woman colleague. SKM has already taken strict action against the accused in this case and we are committed to taking this fight for justice to to its logical conclusion.

This case concerns a 26 year old woman who came from Bengal to join Kisan movements along with some persons posing to be “Kisan Social Army”. She was assaulted by some of these persons on the way to Delhi and after reaching Tikri border.  A week later, she developed high fever, was found Covid positive and admitted to a private hospital in Bahadurgah. Sadly, on 30th April she passed away due to Covid.

When this came to the notice of the SKM, we decided to take strictest possible action.  Four days ago, the Tikri committee of SKM had already removed the tents and banners etc of the so called “Kisan Social Army”.  The accused were barred from participating in the movement and public appeal issued for their social boycott. The SKM has made it clear that the Kisan Social Army was never the authorized social media voice of the SKM and none of its handles have anything to do with the movement.

In addition to these steps, from day one the SKM has assured the family of the deceased colleague that it will extend them every possible support in any legal recourse that they prefer.  Yesterday, on 8th May 2021, her father has lodged a formal complaint with the Police Station, Bahadurgarh. The SKM will extend full cooperation to the police in bringing out the truth of this matter. No one shall be spared.
The SKM recognizes that large-scale participation of women farmers and women farmer leaders is a unique strength of this movement. We wish to assure all women farmers and womens’ organisations that there shall be no compromise with women’s freedom, their autonomy and their agency. The SKM shall follow Zero Tolerance for any incident of sexual harassment, assault or violence against women. We acknowledge that it is the responsibility of the leadership to foster a culture that encourages full and free participation of women in the movement. SKM is committed to creating an institutional mechanism to inquire into and redress any complaint of sexual harassment of any kind

Laying down the timeline of events, Yadav said the farmers outfit came to know about the alleged assault only after the victim’s father, who was also present in the press conference, came to meet them on May 2.

“The father reached Delhi on April 29 and met the woman, who was in a critical condition. She told him the details of the assault before passing away on April 30,” he said.

Yadav added that on May 3, SKM held a meeting with its Tikri border members and it was decided that the accused would be brought to justice.

However, the decision to file an FIR was left with the victim’s father.

“The father filed the FIR on May 8 accusing two men. The Haryana police, however, have listed six names in the FIR, including two who were present as witnesses. We want the police to conduct an impartial investigation, but how will they build a case if they will name the witnesses as accused?” the farmer leader asked.

The SKM has maintained that the Kisan Social Army was never the authorised social media voice of the farmers group and none of its handles have anything to do with the movement.

Responding to a report that farmer leader Gurnam Singh Charuni is related to one of the accused, Yadav said the farmers body cannot confirm it yet.

“We cannot confirm whether the accused is related to Gurnam Singh. But once we know the reality, it will not be taken lightly,” he added.

Farmer leader Hannan Mollah said that taking note of safety concerns for women protestors, the SKM has decided to form a committee.

“This incident has raised safety concerns for hundreds of our women protestors. So we have decided to form a committee as per the laws to protect the dignity of women, wherein any women can register such complaints. And the committee will have full support of the SKM and we will make sure the accused will be dealt with,” Mollah said.

The Haryana Police had on Sunday formed a special investigation team to probe the case.

Several farmers are protesting against the farm laws at border points of Delhi, including Tikri and Singhu, since November last year.