The curfew in violence-hit Madhya Pradesh’s Mandsaur district will be relaxed from 10 am to 6 pm on Friday, reported news agency ANI. After a week-long protest by the farmers in the district demanding loan waiver and better crop prices, the state government on Thursday had ordered anti-riot paramilitary forces to move into the violence-hit areas.
As per reports from news agency PTI, SP Manoj Kumar Singh said the authorities have decided to relax curfew from 10 am to 6 pm as the situation in the district had improved. However, any kind of protests, rally or demonstration will not be permitted during the curfew relaxation period, the police added. O P Srivastava, the collector in the district has said the curfew was relaxed as there were no reports of untoward incidents in the district. As the shops reopened, the locals were seen in the market stocking essentials like vegetables and milk. A huge rush was also observed outside the petrol pumps.
However, incidents of violence were still being reported from Shajapur and Dhar districts, in the western regions of the state on Thursday as the agitation continued. Police on Thursday had fired teargas and lathicharged to restrain a violent mob in Shajapur. The agitation also spread to Chhindwara district in Mahakoshal region of the state. The Centre seeking to restore the peace in the violence-hit state has rushed 1,100 personnel of the RAF. In order to bring back the normalcy, the CM has announced that the government is ready for talks in order to iron out the differences and once again appealed the protesters to maintain peace.
In the meantime, in its report to the Ministry of Home Affairs, the state government also ended the confusion behind who fired at the protesting farmers after it admitted they were killed in police firing. The report, while pointing out that farmers had allegedly set ablaze 25 trucks and two vans, also mentioned that when they continued with the violence the police fired at them, killing five farmers and injuring eight others.
Meanwhile, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who was accompanied by senior Congress leaders and JD(U)’s Sharad Yadav on Thursday, was detained in Naya Gaon, about 70 kilometres from Mandsaur, as they were trying to visit the Mandsaur district making their way via the Rajasthan-Madhya Pradesh border. The Congress leader was later released after being detained for more than four hours in the guest house of a cement company.
The Congress condemned Rahul’s detention as cowardice on the part of the Modi government. AICC general secretary K C Venugopal on Thursday was quoted by PTI as saying: “The arrest of Rahul Gandhi and other senior Congress leaders reveals the political cowardliness of the Modi government,”.
On the other hand, BJP termed Rahul Gandhi’s attempt to visit Mandsaur as a “photo opportunity”, and also accused the latter of “instigating violence”. Union Home Minister M Venkaiah Naidu taking a dig at Congress vice-president said, “It is unfortunate that the Congress is politicising the issue. It is instigating, fuelling violence. Its vice-president now wants to visit the place as part of his photo opportunity yatra which he undertakes on a regular basis”.
The minister also dismissed the demands made by the opposition regarding CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan to step down from his post, in view of the deaths of five protesting farmers in police firing. In reply to the demands made by the Congress, the minister said that on January 12, 1998, 24 farmers had died in police firing in the MP’s Betul district when Congress leader Digvijay Singh was the chief minister, but “he never resigned.”
The farmers in Mandsaur district have been protesting since June 1 demanding loan waiver and better crop prices. Five farmers have been killed and several others injured in police firing ever since.