On 30 May, the dominant caste landowners of Ghanauri Khurd village in Punjab’s Sangrur district organised a meeting of their panchayat. Under the supervision of Rajdeep Kaur, the sarpanch of the village, they passed a list of resolutions against the wages, welfare and freedom of the primarily Dalit daily-wage labourers of the village. The resolution capped the wages of workers at Rs 3,800 for sowing an acre of paddy and capped daily wage at Rs 300. The resolution stated that Dalits from the village can only go to work in farms in other villages after they had already sowed all the fields of upper-caste landowners in Ghanauri Khurd. The resolution also went on to state that landlords were not bound to give workers evening meals and that Dalit workers would have to bring their own utensils for food. This continues a long trend of discrimination and untouchability faced by Dalits who converted to Sikhism and are now categorised as Mazhabi Sikhs. Nearly 35 percent of the village come from Scheduled Caste and Backward Class communities. The resolution ended by saying that any Dalit who refused to work for the new wage that was imposed by the Jatt landlords would face a complete social boycott. Most Mazhabi Sikhs have no agrarian land, only having small residential plots surrounded by Jatt-owned fields. The resolutions threatened to not allow Dalit labourers to walk across the fields if they did not work for the landlords under the new wages, practically marooning them in their land in the middle of a pandemic.
The resolution passed in Ghanauri Khurd is one of several such resolutions that have been passed by dominant-caste controlled panchayats or groups of zamindars across Punjab which reduce the wages of Mazhabi Sikh tillers, force them to work under landlords in their own villages and increase the practice of untouchability against them. Many landlords in Punjab relied heavily on poorly paid migrant labourers from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh. However, due to the nationwide lockdown to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, many migrant labourers have returned to their home states causing a labour shortage. Upper-caste dominated panchayats across Punjab have begun using punitive resolutions and sanctions to control the wage and freedom of Mazhabi Sikh labourer who they are now reliant on.
On 11 June, Tajinder Kaur, the chairperson of Punjab’s State Commission for the Scheduled Castes, took cognisance of the resolution passed by the Ghanauri Khurd panchayat and asked the deputy commissioner of Sangrur to investigate matter. The deputy commissioner was asked to submit an action taken report by 19 July.