At least five people were killed and two others injured as farmers’ agitation spiralled out of control in Mandsaur district of Madhya Pradesh, prompting the authorities to impose curfew in the trouble-hit region. According to eyewitnesses’ accounts, victims had suffered bullet wounds, though district authorities categorically denied that there was any firing by police on agitated farmers.
Reflecting on the incident, Mandsaur Collector SK Singh said police flatly denied firing at any protesters and added that a magisterial inquiry has been ordered into the deaths. The deceased were identified as Kanhaiyalal Patidar, Bablu Patidar and Prem Singh Patidar.
Since June 1, farmers in western Madhya Pradesh have resorted to agitation demanding higher Minimum Support Prices (MSP) among other things. According to reports, there were also demands of loan waiver, in tune to the UP government’s decision to waive off farmers’ loan in early April. Taking a cue from their counterparts in Maharashtra, the protests by the farmers in MP have caused prices of vegetables to soar and resulted in shortage of milk. On Monday, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had tried to calm frayed nerves, insisting that his government was taking all the necessary steps to address the issues of the protesting farmers. He had stated a price stabilisation fund of Rs 1,000 crore would be established to procure the farm produce at the MSP.
According to reports, protesting farmers torched vehicles and indulged in stone pelting in Parshvanath area under Pipaliya Mandi police station limits. Subsequently, curfew was imposed in Pipalya Mandi police station area of the district where the incident took place, and prohibitory orders under section 144 of CrPC were issued in rest of the district.
Confusion prevailed in different parts of the state as the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, an organisation affiliated to the RSS, had called off the agitation while others refused to budge. Suspending the agitation, the BKS said that the government had accepted most of its demands like buying onions at Rs 8 per kg and paying farmers half their dues at mandis in cash and the remaining via electronic transfer to their bank accounts. However, Bharatiya Kisan Union, a little-known organisation that is believed to be behind the stir, said the protests will continue.
Incidents of violence were reported from other parts of the state as farmers’ stir showed no signs of abating on the sixth consecutive day. In Indore, police resorted to lathi charge following stone-pelting during a march by farmers.
Condemning the incident, CM Chouhan said he has ordered an enquiry into the incident. He also announcement a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the family of those killed during the agitation and Rs one lakh for those who were injured. Chouhan also accused the Congress of giving the incident a political color and insisted that his government is committed to the welfare of farmers.
The Congress, however, attacked the state government with party vice president Rahul Gandhi saying the government was at war with the farmers of the country. Ajay Singh, the Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, demanded the resignation of the Chief Minister and said it is a shameful incident for a chief minister who claims to be a farmer’s son. “All the claims of the chief minister have proved false so far. Now the government is using bullets to suppress farmers’ voice. Chouhan should resign immediately,” the Congress leader said.
Senior Congress leader and MP Jyotiraditya Scindia also condemned the incident. “This is a black day in the history of state. It is shameful that the state government is crushing farmers’ agitation. Farmers’ demands are genuine,” Scindia said.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) demanded that the government should immediately suspend the culprits responsible for ordering the firing. “The Politburo strongly condemns the brutal killing of the kisans (farmers) in police firing in Madhya Pradesh,” the party alleged in a statement. Taking to Twitter, party general secretary Sitaram Yechury said, “This unprovoked police firing clearly exposes the anti-kisan character of the BJP in general and the state government in particular.”