We have had enough, say angry Jalalabad residents


The GPS fails as we near the destination. A man points towards a milestone used by a butcher to support his chicken cage. It is empty. An arrow directs right for Kandhawala Hazar Khan. Five minutes on the narrow straight road dividing young wheat fields, we are among a group of men. It is this Dalit vehra on the periphery of the village where Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal’s cavalcade was stoned three days ago.“Akalis are facing the wrath here,” Sunil Kumar, a young labourer, cracks the conversation. He says not long ago, the entire village had voted for the Akalis. But people are now fed up. He tells how Dalits have not been given benefits of government schemes and the sarpanch is working only for the landlords.He asks us to come with him. Almost every Dalit woman shows a pit in her house which was dug as they were promised a grant of Rs 15,000 for the construction of toilets. If someone says her calf died after falling in the pit, another says her husband was injured as he toppled after stepping on it.The houses are of mud, but the village roads are concrete. They are called “bomb-proof roads” in this side of Punjab and Sukhbir is often ridiculed for these.We enter Gurbans Singh’s house, a mud, windowless darkroom. He points to an elderly paralytic woman crawling on the cold floor. “She is my wife. They don’t give her share of wheat as she doesn’t have an Aadhar card.” He points at her crippled fingers. “Officials say she can’t have the card as they can’t get her finger prints.”Go further into the village and farmers complain how they were not given compensation for the cotton crop damaged in 2015 or how Akalis in connivance with local arhtiyas duped them when it came to procuring their paddy. Babu Singh, who owns 16 acres of land, tells that before him all his four generations were Akali supporters. “This time we will not vote for the Akali Dal,” he says.If someone talks about not getting atta-dal, others talk about unfulfilled promise of providing 5-marla plots. That the money is being siphoned off by the Akali henchmen in various schemes is a common allegation.It was an election rally of 10 surrounding villages on Sunday. The rest of the story is known. Dalit men and women were not allowed to go near Sukhbir. They started raising slogans and were beaten up by the police. When the cavalcade started moving away from the village, stones were pelted.Late night, the police came in large numbers. “As far as I could see, there were only police vehicles on the entire street,” says Kala Ram. They were looking for his son Gulab Ram. They forced their way into the houses and hurled abuses at the women, says Simbo, whose son hasn’t returned since Sunday evening.After the incident, most of the youngsters left the village. “More than 20 still haven’t returned,” says Kumar, adding that sarpanch Gurdeep Singh has threatened them with social boycott.Kumar then takes us to the periphery of the village. In the middle stands a tall dark green dome. Punjabi couplets are written almost on every wall. He says this is one of the biggest dargahs of 18th century Sufi poet Bulleh Shah built after the Partition, when a man brought a brick from his dargah from Pakistan. “Jhooth aakhan ta kuj bachda aey. Sach aakheya bhambar machda aey,” reads one of the couplets on the wall.Five minutes on the road, the same milestone guides us back to National Highway-10. The afternoon sun is shining upon us; the cage is now filled with chickens. It seems the butcher has arrived.