At root of Mandsaur unrest in Madhya Pradesh, a young, jobless mob

Madhya Pradesh farmers' unrest: Out of work between harvesting and sowing seasons, they rode the highway and forced vendors and traders not to do business.

Written by Milind Ghatwai | Mandsaur | Updated: June 14, 2017 4:43 pm
Madhya Pradesh unrest, Madhya Pradesh farmer agitation, farmer agitation, mandsaur, meemuch, unemployment Madhya Pradesh, indian express news, india news Charred remains of vehicles at Pipliya Mandi, where protesters clashed with traders. Source: Milind Ghatwai

For thousands of unemployed youths who live in villages off the nearly 60-km stretch between Mandsaur and Neemuch in Madhya Pradesh , a solitary soybean plant is the only major hope of employment other than agriculture produce markets or mandis.

There are some opportunities in the two towns themselves, famous for licensed opium cultivators and a parallel illegal market, which have brought relative prosperity to this region bordering Rajasthan. In between, however, there are no plants or factories to offer jobs.

Job-seekers from these villages have to travel to Ratlam, Pithampur, Neemuch or to Indore, 200 km away. There are a couple of soybean processing plants in Neemuch and a cement factory in Nayagaon, 18 km away, but clearly not enough to absorb them all.

After the winter crop is harvested and before sowing for kharif crop begins, youngsters of farming families have nothing on their hands. It was such a crowd that was on the streets from June 1, the first day of what was to be a 10-day strike called in support of fair price for crops.

Even the opium growers had protested recently, as also last year, with an entirely different demand. Their protests went largely unnoticed outside because the number of licensed cultivators in Mandsaur, Neemuch and part of Ratlam — the three districts where legal cultivation takes place — is less than 20,000.

Forcing vendors not to venture out, throwing onions and tomatoes and spilling milk on the streets, the youngsters roamed in towns and took to highways on their bikes from June 1 to June 4, their aggression increasing by the day.

The seeds of the violence that eventually led to the killing of five protesters in firing were sown in Pipliya Mandi town, about 15 km from Mandsaur on the way to Neemuch, on the evening of June 4 when a near 1,000-strong mob forced traders to down shutters.

“They indulged in hooliganism and loot, insulted shop-owners and their family members. Where will the owner whose shop and house are here go even if he wants to shut the shop down?” said a veteran trader, Manohar Lal Jain. Even after curfew was lifted from Pipliya Mandi, the traders were not ready to open their shops until they were provided protection.

“We only requested them to show solidarity with us by downing shutters,” said Sukhlal Patidar of Barkheda Pant village, seated next to Dinesh Patidar, whose 19-year-old son Abhishek was the youngest victim of firing.

“A complete shutdown and choking of vegetable and milk supplies would have helped us highlight our troubles better because people would have felt the pinch,” said Sukhlal. “Their refusal to cooperate worsened the situation. When we sell milk we get Rs 22 per litre but if we were to buy it from the market we would have to pay Rs 45. People are ready to buy a water bottle for Rs 20 but refuse to pay that much for what we produce.”

One trader was so upset by the mob that he chased and beat up a couple of protesters on June 5; the video was widely circulated by farmers among themselves. At least three protesters were beaten and one of them had to be rushed to hospital in critical condition.

“Do what you want. We won’t shut our shops because we have suffered losses. There were just four or five traders but they were adamant,” said Sureshchandra Patidar of Chillod Pipliya, at the house of Kanhaiyyalal Patidar, the eldest of the firing victims.

The protesters returned and set fire to properties of four traders who had refused to down shutters. Both sides were angry with the local police; the traders felt the police were doing little to control the situation, and the farmers accused them of siding with the traders because of their financial clout.

While who exactly fired and under what circumstances is now the subject of a judicial probe, it was amid this volatile situation that two firing incidents took place near Pipliya Mandi on June 6 leaving five protesters dead: a teenager, three under 30, and one aged 44.

“We had been repeatedly attacked but we kept cool even when some of us were injured,” said a police official posted at Pipliya Mandi who cited the tussle between traders and protesters as the genesis of the violence.

Describing the plight of the policemen, Home Minister Bhupendra Singh said, “They were at the receiving end for days.” He had initially claimed that the police had not fired but later said they probably had because Pipliya Mandi police station was under siege.

Bumper production, falling prices, demonetisation and alleged involvement of criminal elements all contributed to the anger among farmers; the police firing came amid the standoff between traders and protesters. Since demonetisation, traders who buy produce at mandis gained an advantage that allowed them to manipulate prices and exploit the farmers’ need for payment in cash, a major factor behind the agitation.

The Pipliya Mandi police station, which now resembles a fortress with security personnel milling around, has 65 villages under its jurisdiction. Nearly two dozen vehicles were set on fire by protesters on a 3-km stretch of the highway between Bahi Parshwanath and Pipliya-Mandi, the epicentre that remained out of bounds for authorities for hours on June 6 and 7. Hundreds of youngsters would come out, pelt stones at police or indulge in arson and then melt into nearby fields.

Malhargarh Police Station is also on the highway but has only 32 villages under its jurisdiction. It saw far fewer incidents of violence than Pipliya Mandi.

“There are no job opportunities here. My job as a tempo driver earns me Rs 300 to Rs 400 but I lost even that meagre earning for days. I sat home to save my tempo because if I had ventured out it would have been torched too,” said Babloo Pathan of Malhargarh. “If you are landless, working on daily wages is the only option,” he said, hoping for the situation to improve.

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  1. V
    venkatrao
    Jun 22, 2017 at 8:57 pm
    analytical e
    Reply
    1. A
      Abbiya
      Jun 14, 2017 at 5:35 pm
      Ssince from BJP government have create unwanted crisis to diverse the peoples mind had given big flash promises .peoples did not forget that promises. They have frustrated because of BJP bogus promises.
      Reply
      1. M
        Mel
        Jun 14, 2017 at 5:16 pm
        Dear Media are you sure about this? You must realize that your news is never credible and its forced news just for the sake of it. Please work hard and do better next time.
        Reply
        1. V
          vish
          Jun 14, 2017 at 5:03 pm
          What a stupid way to analyse the problem,it is the Congress Instigated violence by hiring jobless at peanuts.Congress can do nothing other than creating problems in the country,look at the way Pappu travelled to create more problems,everything was well planned .
          Reply
          1. M
            manian
            Jun 14, 2017 at 3:51 pm
            Now atleast the opportunist congress should realise that jobless youth ,not farmers were behind the agitation,police have to put down the lawlessness with an iron hand,resulting in the unfortunate incident.All political parties should share the blame for the present scenerio stop playing to the gallery.
            Reply
            1. S
              Shridhar Shettigar
              Jun 14, 2017 at 4:26 pm
              Police can do very little if the govt can not solve the youth unemployment. The Congress is decimated and no amount of shouting against their past misrule is going to produce any desired results... I think Govt officials are scared of taking any decisions, thinking which may backfire them in future. So they are just trying to pass the buck..
              Reply
              1. D
                Dipak
                Jun 14, 2017 at 5:00 pm
                Do a bit research and you will find Congress Company organised this so-called farmers agitation. First five killed are not farmers. Agriculture has improved considerably since 2005.
                Reply
              2. D
                Damodar Biswal
                Jun 14, 2017 at 3:46 pm
                Unemployment n underemployment r major reasons for unrest in different parts of the country.However,instigation by vested interests is no way less responsible for the same.
                Reply
                1. N
                  niharika
                  Jun 14, 2017 at 3:40 pm
                  it is a ridiculous situation ,that farmer [the producers] is left bare hand after selling his crop and on the other hand consumer [common man ] is again left with bare hand after buying food for a single day. where all the money goes is a big question ter-market need to be controlled by new policies.moreover agriculture need to considered as industry with more and more research work and innovation . this will make agriculture a profitable job that in turn will attract youth and bring prosperity
                  Reply
                  1. T
                    The Observer
                    Jun 14, 2017 at 11:54 am
                    At least one press ute got it right.. this is the real issue. Mobs with no work and no intention to find work. They are in millions in every nook and corner. You will see them idling away .. they would gather like flies on a carcass after every accident / incident. This is the crowd that attends political meetings of our netas as well. Instead of highlighting this press utes call such mobocracy and farmers' anger etc. Such unbridled population which is adding 3 crores every year is the real worry.. None of the netas or media want to address this
                    Reply
                    1. P
                      PKR
                      Jun 14, 2017 at 4:21 pm
                      Well Said. The media is inciting such freeloaders and creating issues for their TRP/clicks
                      Reply
                      1. P
                        Punekar
                        Jun 14, 2017 at 8:36 pm
                        Your observation should have made you ask the question, why now? Here is a state ruled for over a decade by the BJP and a BJP Government at the Center.
                        Reply
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