By Aakanksha Khajuria
New Delhi, Feb 7 (IANS) As agitating farmers face grave legal challenges emerging out of the Republic Day violence, scores of lawyers from the adjoining states have stationed themselves at the borders, courts and jails of the national capital to offer free legal assistance to them.
On January 26, protesting farmers had clashed with the police during the tractor rally against three farm laws. During the clash, a section of protesters had entered the Red Fort and hoisted a religious flag. So far, the police have arrested over 120 people in connection with the Republic Day violence.
About 160 lawyers, under the banner of ‘Advocates for Farmers’, have split into 11 teams to carry out tasks ranging from data entry of the arrested and missing protesters, drafting, figuring out where they are jailed to filing their bail applications.
Few of them have set up their tents at three borders — Singhu, Ghazipur and Tikri — and are contacting the families of those arrested or missing by wading from trolly to trolly. Besides this, they have also set up toll-free numbers to address the farmers’ grievances.
Advocates Ajit Pal Singh Mander and Hakam Singh head the teams and carry out coordination among them. “Data is collected by three teams at the border and execution is carried out by eight teams at different courts in the city,” Mander, belonging to Punjab’s Bathinda district, said.
The advocate said that five protesters have been let out on bail so far, while the petitions of three others are coming up for hearing at the Dwarka court on Monday. “Today we found out that 22 more people are missing since that day (January 26), out of which we have found that eight are lodged in jail,” he said.
At Singhu, a 29-year-old lawyer explained how legal aid is being provided to the farmers. “We collect data as to who is missing or who has been arrested since Republic Day by going from tractor to tractor, and based on the information, we inform our teams at Tihar jail.”
Advocate Gaurav Kaushal went on to say, “From there, the team attests the power of attorney and gives it to the teams working in various courts. Another team then drafts the bail applications and also argues the matter.”
He, however, rued the internet issue, due to which the lawyers have to travel to Delhi to hand over the documents to the other teams. The team also claimed that Delhi Police are not cooperating with them in getting the details.
Another lawyer, Tanya Tabassum, said that the team covers the 15 km stretch on Singhu border in a day to find out information about the farmers.
At Ghazipur, Bharat Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait has set up a tent for lawyers beneath the flyover to help the families find missing children and bail out those who have been arrested. “We are doing it pro-bono,” said 26-year-old Vasu Kukreja, who hails from Amritsar.
Besides providing legal aid, the lawyers also educate the agitating farmers about their rights in case they get arrested in future and clarify their doubts on three contentious farm laws, against which they have taken up the fight, Kukreja said.
“Today, while going from trolly to trolly, we found out that 25 men belonging to Haridwar are missing since that day. We will try to find them. Besides this, we are trying to huddle in more lawyers because the farmer to lawyer ratio is currently very low,” he said.
Notably, on Wednesday, the Central government had informed the Delhi High Court that ‘substantial’ steps have been taken against the perpetrators in connection with the January 26 violence.
“We are invoking the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in some of the FIRs, including those in which the banned entity ‘Sikhs for Justice’ is involved,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had said.
(Aakanksha Khajuria can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
By Aakanksha Khajuria