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  • Writer's pictureDahlia Foundation

‘We want dignity’: Indian farmers defy pellets, drones to demand new deal

Shambhu border, India — Balvinder Singh lies on his side, writhing in pain, on a hospital bed in the northern Indian state of Punjab.

When Singh, 47, was hit by a volley of piercing objects while marching towards New Delhi with thousands of other farmers, he did not know what had struck him.

But his body is pockmarked with telltale black scars from iron pellets fired by security forces to prevent farmers from crossing over from Punjab into the state of Haryana, which borders New Delhi. Haryana is ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, whose federal policies the farmers are protesting against.

Singh, a farmer from Faridkot district in Punjab, who was admitted at Rajindra Hospital in the city of Patiala, was hit when he was calming the angry young farmers at the front of the protest site, metres away from the border on February 14, a day after the protests began.

“I was calming down the protesters when I was hit,” Singh says, his left eye bloody from a pellet injury. “I could not understand whether it was a bullet or something else that hurt me.”

Singh says he had never heard of iron pellets being used as ammunition by security forces against civilian protesters. In the past, such pellets have been mostly used in Indian-administered Kashmir as a crowd-control mechanism. Pellet guns have blinded scores of people in Kashmir.

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