Mandsaur farmers’ stir spreads to 6 more districts; Rahul Gandhi leaves for MP to meet protesters

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Mandsaur farmers

A day after five farmers were killed in alleged police firing in Madhya Pradesh’s Mandsaur district, violence escalated on Wednesday and spread to six other districts of the state. A bank, chartered buses, petrol pumps, police chowkis and vehicles were set on fire by the angry protesters in different parts of the state. In some areas, rail and road traffic was also thrown out of gear. At some places, the protesters are also said to have heckled senior state officials.

Cases of rioting, arson and stone-pelting were reported from Ujjain, Dewas, Mandsaur, Neemuch, Sehore and Pipalya Mandi area of Mandsaur. Curfew remained in force in Pipalya Mandi, while prohibitory orders restricting movement under Section 144 of Cr PC continued in the district.

The five farmers, who died on Tuesday were cremated in Pipliya amidst public protests. The protesters pelted stones at the security agencies — the police and Rapid Action Force personnel — forcing them to backtrack. Stones were also pelted at Sitamau police station prompting police to use tear gas shells.

An important road, Berkheda Panth, around 18 km from the Pipaliya Mandi police station, was also blocked by hundred of farmers.

Mobile and Internet services remained suspended in Mandsaur, Ratlam and Neemuch districts. The restrictions were put in place to check the spread of rumours, authorities said.

Three shops, a house and a factory were burnt down by protesters in Mansa Road and Podwal Dharmashala area. Allegedly, the protesters even threatened local residents against dousing the fire.

Rail tracks were uprooted in Barkhera area. Angry protests were also reported from Dhar, Harda and Sehore, while a police station in Neemuch was vandalised. The protesters attacked a private bank and tried to burn down an ATM in Mandsaur’s Kayampur.

Farmers clashed with police in Haatpiplya and Dewas after they pelted stones, torched vehicles, including a fire tender, and tried to stop a train, damaging its engine.

Farmers protesting against the SDM and Tehsildar vandalised petrol pumps and a dozen other spots in Khargone. Some Congress leaders reportedly accompanied the angry farmers.

At Ujjain’s Tajpur, farmers and the police clashed with stone-pelting injuring three policemen. The protestors also forcefully closed shops in Ujjain. The Indore-Bhopal highway was blocked as angry farmers gathered there and pelted stones. In Bhopal’s Misod area, protestors torched CM Shivraj’s effigy and vandalised vehicles.

Meanwhile, National president of Rashtriya Mazdoor Kisan Sangh (RMKS) Shiv Kumar Sharma on Wednesday claimed that the Mandsaur violence has taken the lives of eight people, including six from the Patidar community.

The RKMS, with the Bharatiya Kisan Union and Aam Kisan Union held a joint press conference in Mandsaur, wherein they claimed that farmers were shot in the neck and head which is a violation of Supreme Court guidelines. The unions demanded for President’s rule in the state and alleged that the government was withholding information on the number of those killed in firing.

Violence broke out in Mandsaur on Tuesday during the ongoing statewide agitation of farmers who have been protesting since June 1 demanding higher minimum support prices (MSP) for their produce, farm package and loan waiver.

State CM Chouhan attempted to restore normalcy and appealed for calm. He tweeted, “I appeal to my fellow brothers to maintain peace. I am deeply pained by the turn of events today.I stand by families in this hour of grief.”

Meanwhile, BJP national vice-president Prabhat Jha blamed the Congress party for “politicising” the issue. BJP and Congress workers also came face-to-face at Gwalior and Indore over bandh calls from Congress and farmers’ unions.

Mandsaur Collector SK Singh and Superintendent of Police Omprakash Tripathi were both allegedly mishandled when they attempted to pacify the protester. “When the protesters started misbehaving and pushing the collector, we made way for him to come out safe,” Berkheda Panth’s sarpanch Dinesh told news agency PTI. The collector had on Tuesday categorically denied charges of police having opened fire at the farmers. alleged that the government was withholding information on the number of those killed in firing.

The opposition party Congress observed a day long bandh in the state. Some Congress leaders also met the kin of the deceased. Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi is likely to visit Madhya Pradesh’s violence-hit Mandsaur district on Thursday to meet the kin of the deceased.

The farmers’ incident remained the main topic of discussion even in the national capital on Wednesday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was on Wednesday apprised of the situation in Mandsaur after which he chaired a meeting with senior ministers to discuss the situation in the state. Soon after the high-level meeting, the Centre rushed 1,100 anti- riots police personnel to Madhya Pradesh’s Mandsaur to help restore peace. The state beefed up security in its capital Bhopal to ensure protestors? don’t reach there.

Around 600 personnel of the Rapid Action Force, a specialised anti-riots force, reached Mandsaur to assist the local administration, a Home Ministry official said. Altogether 500 more RAF personnel will be sent to Mandsaur by the Home Ministry on the request of the state government.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah too was also apprised of the situation in Mandsaur on phone by state CM Chouhan. Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu accused the Congress of playing dirty politics and accused Congress of “instigating” protesters in Madhya Pradesh. “It is a very sad turn of events in a state that is the most peaceful state in India. The Congress is trying to politicise farmers’ problems after they failed to counter (Chief Minister) Shivraj Singh Chouhan politically in the state,” Naidu said on the sidelines of a function.

Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh was forced to call off a cabinet briefing and a scheduled press conference on the “successful completion” of the government’s ‘Swachhta Pakhwada’ programme.

Congress, on the other hand, sharpened its attack on the Modi government and alleged that on an average nearly 35 farmers committed suicide every day in the country ever since Narendra Modi became the prime minister.

Senior Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi called the BJP government a curse for the farmers. He said, “Distressed farmers are viewed by heartless BJP virtually as fodder for opening fire. What was sad and sorry was not merely the terrible deaths and opening of fire in Mandsaur…but what was particularly insulting and sad was the complete denial of the firing.”

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