Social activist Anna Hazare on Friday extended his support to agitating farmers in Maharashtra and expressed his desire to mediate between the state government and the agriculturists if asked to. He also hoped that the stir be conducted in a peaceful manner. “I extend my support to farmers’ agitation and the cause behind it. It is better if they resort to a peaceful way of protest,” Hazare told reporters.
The Gandhian’s appeal for peaceful protest came against the backdrop of farmers’ agitation turning violent in some parts of the state with the incidents of stone pelting and vandalising of vehicles carrying milk and vegetables to Mumbai being reported on Wednesday night. Appealing to farmers to shun violence, Hazare said he was ready to join discussions between the farmers’ leaders and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis if he was asked to.
On Friday, Fadnavis expressed willingness to hold talks with the agitating farmers. “‘Satyagraha’ is a birthright of all. The government should not use police force when there is a peaceful agitation,” he said. The septuagenarian alleged that farmers have resorted to protests due to “anti-farmer” policies of the government. “Farmers must get an assurance on price of their agricultural produce based on expenses incurred by them on production. This demand has always been neglected by all the past governments,” the anti-graft crusader said.
A non-political movement of farmers is necessary to pressurise the whole political system to meet the demands of farmers, he said. “If farmers’ leaders wish so, I am ready to initiate a dialogue with farmers and the government,” Hazare said. Farmers from many parts of the state including Nashik, Pune, and Ahmednagar districts have joined the stir, which entered the second day on Friday.
The agitation is mainly spearheaded by farmers’ activists though parties like the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatna, led by Raju Shetti, an ally of the ruling BJP, have extended moral support to the stir. Among the demands raised by agitating farmers are waiving loans owing to crop failures and indebtedness, besides ensuring a guaranteed minimum support price (MSP) for their produce. Farmers in Nashik district are opposing acquisition of land for the proposed Super Communication Expressway connecting Mumbai and Nagpur.
A curfew was imposed in Yeola town in Nashik district on Thursday, following a clash between the police and a mob of stone pelters. At Lasalgaon in Nashik district, protesters stoned a police jeep, damaging its windshields. Agitators had dumped onions, chillies, mangoes and tomatoes on the road as weekly markets in 82 places in the district remained closed.