In a controversial statement on the deaths of farmers during the protest against the centre’s new farm laws, Haryana Agriculture Minister JP Dalal on Saturday said they would have died even if they had stayed back home. Faced with a backlash on social media, he later apologised.
Mr Dalal made the remark in Haryana’s Bhiwani in response to a reporter’s query over the “death of 200 farmers”.
“Wouldn’t they have died if they were at home? Had they been at their homes, they would have died there also. Out of one to two lakh, do 200 people not die in six months?” he asked, triggering laughter and joining in with a smile.
“Someone is dying of a heart attack and someone after falling ill… They died of their own will. I have my deepest sympathies for them,” Mr Dalal said, once again with a smile, triggering laughter.
Several farmers – mostly from Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh who have been on protest against the centre’s three farm laws on the outskirts of Delhi since November – have died of various reasons including cardiac arrest.
Hours after making the statement, the Haryana agriculture minister said he has seen “twisted” statements, attributed to him, on social media. He said “wrong meaning” was given to his statements.
“If anybody is hurt by it, I tender my apology,” he said, adding he would continue to work for farmers’ welfare. He said it is painful if anyone dies.
Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala attacked Mr Dalal over his remarks and said such a statement can only be made by an “insensitive” person.
“These words can only be used by an insensitive man for agitating ”annadatas”,” said Mr Surjewala in a tweet.
Haryana Congress chief Kumari Selja too slammed Dalal for his statement.
“This reaction and laughter of the Haryana agriculture minister on the sacrifice of our farmer brothers are very sad,” she said in a tweet.
Punjab Congress leader Raj Kumar Verka also demanded Mr Dalal’s sacking from the Haryana Cabinet over his “insensitive” remarks.