Punjab: Woman dies after consuming poison during anti-encroachment drive

Family alleges case was sub-judice & police hushed up cremation; admin, cops deny claims

A 27-Year-Old woman died while undergoing treatment after she allegedly consumed poison during an anti-encroachment drive at Majara Kalan village of Gill sub-division in Ludhiana, Sunday.

A team of officials from the horticulture department and police had reached Majara Kalan Friday to get freed 26 acres of land allegedly encroached upon by one Lakhwinder Singh, who had planted paddy on the plot. His sister Simarjeet Kaur (27) allegedly consumed poison when officials were destroying the crop planted on the encroached land. Lakhwinder said his sister died while undergoing treatment at Dayanand Medical College and Hospital (DMCH) on Sunday and police hushed up her cremation claiming that keeping her body for long might lead to spread of coronavirus, even though she tested negative.

“Our case was still sub-judice and without serving any notice, the horticulture department and police came to take possession of our 26 acres of land. They destroyed our paddy crop and forcefully took possession. In tension, my sister consumed poison and was shifted to DMCH. She died there on Sunday. After her death, she tested negative for coronavirus and we did not want to cremate her body till justice wasn’t done. We wanted to protest with her body but the administration and police hushed up her cremation claiming that there is a threat of coronavirus spread. If she tested negative, then what was the threat? She died because of the administration and police’s high-handedness and injustice. She would have been alive today had they not freed our land forcefully and destroyed our crop. We want justice and a probe into her death,” said Lakhwinder.

Dinesh Kumar, deputy director horticulture, Ludhiana, said that 76 acres of land in two villages — Ablowal and Majara Kalan — belonged to the department and for years some families had encroached on them and were doing farming on it illegally. “We just got freed the land which was illegally encroached upon including 26 acres by the family of Lakhwinder Singh. Ownership of the land, as per records of the revenue department, belongs to the horticulture department. We aren’t aware of any other case ongoing related to the land,” he said.

A board was also erected on the land which said: “This land measuring 76 acres at Ablowal and Majara Kalan villages is now under possession of horticulture department, Punjab. Any efforts to encroach the land will invite legal action…”

Denying allegations that the woman’s cremation was hushed up, Inspector Nishan Singh, SHO of Ladhowal police station, said, “The woman was cremated in the presence of her family. The family did all the rituals. Health workers were wearing PPE kits because the body was kept in the mortuary where coronavirus positive bodies were also kept. Though she tested negative, we still took all precautions. We could not have allowed the family to keep the body for protest and delay the cremation, it was risky.”

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