Mandsaur violence: Farmers’ protests enter 8th day, Rahul Gandhi heads to meet protesters
The agitation of Madhya Pradesh farmers demanding loan waivers and higher crop prices in the state entered its eighth day today.
The agitation turned violent in Mandsaur on Wednesday and spread to other districts of the state.
On Tuesday, at least five farmers were killed and several injured in Mandsaur district when police fired on protesting farmers. However, the leaders of ptotesting farmers claimed that eight people had died in the police firing.
The protestors torched several buses and other vehicles on the Bhopal-Indore highway on Wednesday.
The police resorted to lathi charge which led to halting of traffic for hours in Dewas.
Meanwhile, the centre has rushed five more battalions of paramilitary forces to Madhya Pradesh, Hindustan Times reported.
Six battalions were sent on Tuesday to assist the police administration in controlling the situation.
The farmers’ uprising in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra has not only posed serious problems for the respective governments in both the states but for the Narendra Modi government as well which had promised to ensure that the farmers are freed from a cycle of debts.
The government of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan tried to douse the fires by announcing financial compensation for those killed in the violence and said he was ready for talks with farmers.
"I am a farmer and understand your problems. You can be assured your government will implement all promises," Chouhan tweeted, urging people to maintain calm and not pay heed to rumours.
In New Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has promised to double farmers' income by the end of his first term in 2019, met Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari on Wednesday to review the situation.
Rahul Gandhi to visit Mandsaur today
Even as the BJP and the Congress indulged in a war of words over the killing of eight farmers in police firing in Madhya Pradesh, the Congress said its Vice-President Rahul Gandhi will visit Mandsaur on Thursday to meet the bereaved families.
"Will be in Mandsaur tomorrow (Thursday) to meet the families of farmers who lost their lives in the police firing yesterday (Tuesday)," Gandhi said on his official Twitter handle.
However, the local administration in the BJP-ruled state have said that they will not allow Rahul to enter the violence -hit area. But local Congress leaders are adamant that he will meet the protesting farmers.
Fresh violence erupted in Madhya Pradesh on Wednesday as protesting farmers indulged in arson, a day after the police gunned down eight peasants demanding relief from debts and higher crop prices.
On Wednesday, Information and Broadcasting Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu accusing the Congress of instigating violence in the name of farmers' agitation.
Terming the violence "very unfortunate", Naidu said the government was monitoring the situation.
The Minister accused the Congress of trying to gain political mileage out of the incident.
"The Congress is trying to give it a political twist. I only want to tell them (Congress) not to politicise the issue and fuel and instigate violence in the name of farmers' agitation, because it will boomerang on you," Naidu said.
On the other hand, describing the killings as tragic and cold blooded murder, the Congress questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi's silence on the issue.
Speaking to the media in New Delhi, Congress spokesperson and Rajya Sabha member Abhishek Manu Singhvi trashed as "shameless" the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) allegation that the Congress instigated the Mandsaur violence.
Singhvi said while farmers were demanding fair price for their produce, the BJP government shot them dead.
"They were seeking loan waivers and right price, but he BJP (government) killed them with bullets. This is the sad reality of Mandsaur," Singhvi added.
Farmers in Madhya Pradesh are on strike from June 1 to June 10 to demand waiver of their loans and that their produce be bought at a fair price.
"The BJP has almost been acting like the curse of death for Indian farmers -- literally, not figuratively. Distressed farmers are looked upon by the heartless BJP virtually as objects for authorities to fire upon," said the Congress spokesperson.
"What was insulting and sad was the complete denial by the Madhya Pradesh government, which intially said there was no firing," he added.
The Congress leader questioned Modi's silence, ban on Internet and denial of permission to Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi to meet the farmers in Mandsaur.
"Prime Minister Modi speaks of development (utthan), but has instead only tweeted about 'Uttana-Mandukasana' (yoga posture) in last 24 hours," Singhvi said.
The Congress leader said those who wanted to go and express solidarity with the farmers, including Rahul Gandhi, were denied permission and instead rumours and canards were spread that he wanted to go there to participate in the protest.
"Instead of giving a healing touch to the farmers, the government is preventing communication by banning the Internet," Singhvi said.
Hundreds of angry farmers on Wednesday blocked roads and attacked two top officials at Mandsaur as their leaders claimed that eight people had died in the police firing a day earlier.
(With agency inputs)