Madhya Pradesh police has released a list of names of 32 alleged opium smugglers who are wanted in connection with the violence during farmers’ protests in Mandsaur in June.
The protests that started near Pipliya Mandi on June 1 culminated in police firing that killed five protesters on June 6. A sixth protester died in custody. Farmers in Mandsaur had been protesting diminishing returns on their produce which made paying off farm loans tough.
“We have identified them from video footage of incidents from June 1 and the number could go up as the investigation progresses,’’ Mandsaur SP Manoj Singh said.
The police said 38 people who faced cases under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act were wanted for their role in violence and six have been arrested.
In the last few days, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, BPJ state president Nandkumar Singh Chouhan and a few ministers have publicly said the farmers’ unrest took a violent turn as opium smugglers and Congress activists were among the protesters.
Opium is legally grown in Mandsaur and Neemuch districts and some parts of Ratlam in Madhya Pradesh and given the existence of a parallel illegal market, cases under the NDPS Act are slapped against those found involved in illegal cultivation, possession, storage and transport.
Five protesters were shot dead near Bahi Chowpati and Pipliya Mandi police station that fall on the four-lane highway between Mandsaur and Neemuch districts. Twenty-one of the 32 alleged smugglers live in villages under Pipliya Mandi police station and the rest in Sitamau, Bhavgarh and Kotwali police stations.
The police have announced rewards ranging from Rs 1,000-5,000 for information on the 32.
“The area has a high density of licensed cultivators and also those involved in illegal activities,” the SP said.
Kanhaiyalal Patidar, one of the five protesters who died in firing, also faced charges under the NDPS Act.“My brother was not a smuggler. He had faced several cases in the past but was acquitted in all of them before 2007,” said Kanhaiyalal’s brother Jagdish Patidar.
“Why were they not arrested if they were wanted in the NDPS cases? Were the police sleeping? The entire list is fake,” alleged Shriram Patidar, a farmer leader.