Police brutality and undue use of force are terrible occurrences everywhere around the world and need to be immediately investigated in order to preserve the integrity of law and order. The stakes become even higher when undue force by officials is applied during a protest—it threatens both the right to life and right to protest. Law enforcement officials are meant to protect peaceful protestors, not put their lives at risk.

That is why the recent incident of a death of a farmer, by alleged police brutality, is so deplorable. The protest had been arranged legally by a group of farmers who had gathered on Tuesday for demanding fixing the support prices of wheat at Rs2,000 and of sugarcane at Rs300 per 40 kg, and introducing a flat rate of Rs5 per unit for farm tubewells. These were reasonable demands that farmers had every right to register their protest for. Instead, one of the protesters, Ashfaq Langrial, expired during the protest under mysterious circumstances, with his fellow protestors claiming that it was due to police torture and inhaling fumes from chemical-mixed water used by the police water-cannon against the protestors.

The death of a protestor because of alleged police brutality is horrific and holds a lot of weight—it is an attack against free speech and protest. Protest is the fundamental right of every citizen, yet unfortunately this right does not seem to be taken seriously by the state. Too many small protests, particularly by non-influential and underprivileged groups like farmers are met with police harassment regularly. Measures like water cannons or fumes require a strict threshold of violence to be used; yet this threshold is rarely respected, with law enforcement regularly using these tactics to disperse protesters.

The government has been claiming how tolerant it is by allowing the PDM protests—it needs to walk the walk by investigating police misconduct in these smaller, less-televised protests also. This death needs to be investigated, the victim’s family given justice and the claim of alleged use of chemicals in water needs to be taken very seriously.