As the farmers’ protests spread closer to Bhopal on Friday, three days after five were killed in police firing in Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced that he would begin an indefinite fast on Saturday, until peace is restored in the state. He also said he would be available at the Dussehra Maidan in Bhopal for the next few days, for meetings with all stakeholders. The Congress had earlier accused Chouhan of meeting only the RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS). “The agitation has become lawless in certain parts and protesters will be dealt with strictly,’’ said Chouhan. “Providing security to all is my Raj Dharma. Some people are handing over stones to 18-year-olds and 20-year-olds… There will be no compromise on security,’’ said Chouhan.
Meanwhile, the death toll rose to six as one more person, identified as Ghanshyam Dhakad, 26, died on Friday. Dhakad’s family alleged that he was beaten up by the police during a protest at Dalauda village, between Jaora and Mandsaur, on Thursday. He was taken to a hospital in Indore, where he succumbed to his injuries on Friday.
A senior police officer said they were waiting for the post-mortem report.
Even as Mandsaur, the epicentre of the protests, remained calm on Friday, a group of protesters torched a truck and some motorcycles at Fanda near Bhopal. Another group blocked traffic on the busy Bhopal-Indore highway. Violence was reported from Shajapur, Dewas, Indore, Dhar, Khargone, Ujjain, Raisen and Sehore among other districts. An SDM was reportedly thrashed by protesters at Shajapur.
IG (intelligence) Makrand Deuskar said 231 cases have been registered in connection with the protests so far, including 109 in Dewas, 28 in Mandsaur, 20 in Ujjain and 18 in Dhar. Cases have also been registered in Ratlam, Badwani, Neemuch and Rajgarh. He said 191 vehicles have been torched and over 150 persons arrested for arson and violence so far.
The Opposition Congress has demanded a two-day special Assembly session to discuss the situation in the state. “He (Chouhan) was not ready to give the Congress credit for the ongoing stir, but suddenly, after five deaths, he accused the Opposition party of instigating protesters,’’ said Leader of Opposition Ajay Singh. Dismissing Chouhan’s decision to begin an indefinite fast as a stunt, he said: “He holds a constitutional position and should not resort to tactics used by Arvind Kejriwal.’’
While ruling out a loan waiver on Saturday, Chouhan reiterated his government’s resolve to buy tur, urad and moong from farmers at MSP from June 10 to June 30, in addition to onions at Rs 8 per kg.