Peace returns to Mandsaur, CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan ends fast
In ferment for the last several days, Madhya Pradesh's Mandsaur, the epicentre of a violent stir by farmers, remained peaceful today, prompting Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to end his indefinite fast.
Chouhan, who began the fast yesterday to calm frayed tempers of the farmers demanding a loan waiver and remunerative prices for their produce, announced a slew of schemes for their benefit but issued a stern warning to those who engaged in "incendiary activities".
There was no curfew in all three police stations areas of Mandsaur city for the second day today, but prohibitory orders under section 144 CrPC banning assembly of more than four people remained in force in the entire district.
Curfew will, however, continue in Pipliamandi police station area, about 15 km from Mandsaur district headquarters, where the killing of five farmers in police firing on June 6 led to sudden escalation of violence and arson that spread to several other districts of Madhya Pradesh.
"The situation is peaceful and there are no reports of violence so far," Collector OP Srivastava and SP Manoj Singh said.
Chouhan, under relentless opposition attack over the farmers' stir, broke his fast about a day-and-half into it with a glass of coconut water offered by former MP chief minister Kailash Joshi.
"Peace has been restored in MP and no case of violence has been reported yesterday and today," Chouhan said before ending his fast.
"In a state where agriculture has flourished, it is impossible that farmers would indulge in violence on such a scale. While any pain to farmers is unacceptable, those who have engaged in incendiary activities will be severely dealt with. Those whose properties have been damaged will be compensated, but it will be investigated who were behind this violence. I began this fast in accordance with 'Rashtra dharma' (duty towards the nation) as in the name of farmers' agitation some people created a situation that caused me worry," he added.
BJP leaders have been accusing the Congress party of having stoked the agitation.
On being asked whether he had agreed to the demand for loan waiver, Chouhan, however, avoided a direct reply, maintaining he had told the farmers what he had to say.
During his fast, Chouhan had met 15 delegations of small farmers and 236 of big cultivators.
BJP's state unit president Nandkumar Singh Chauhan claimed the family members of those killed in Tuesday's police firing had yesterday met Chouhan and requested him to call off his fast. The kin of four out of five men killed in firing had met Chouhan at the fast venue.
BJP general secretary Kailash Vijaywargiya claimed the farmers requested Chouhan to end his fast and even said they were ready to withdraw the agitation.
Before ending his 28-hour fast, Chouhan announced a slew of measures for the benefit of farmers and declared purchase of any farm produce below the minimum support price (MSP) will be treated as crime.
"Any purchase of farm produce below the MSP declared by the Centre would be considered a criminal act in MP," Chouhan told a gathering at BHEL's Dussehra Maidan here, the venue of his fast. He said agricultural land would now be acquired only with the consent of farmers concerned.
He said 'Kisan Bazaar' would be set up in all municipal areas and a cooperative institution on the lines of the Amul Dairy Cooperatives of Gujarat will be set up across the state.
The chief minister said the government was in the process of setting up a Rs 1,000-crore Price Stabilisation Fund to purchase farm produce at the MSP.
Besides, Agricultural Costs and Marketing Commission would also be set up to ensure remunerative prices of farm produce.
Meanwhile, Swaraj India chief Yogendra Yadav and social activists Medha Patkar and Swami Agnivesh were today detained in Madhya Pradesh's Ratlam district while trying to enter neighbouring Mandsaur to meet the families of the five farmers killed in police firing.
The activists, around 30 in number, were stopped by the police at the Dhodhar toll plaza in Jaora town as prohibitory orders were in force across Mandsaur district.
On being stopped, the activists, including JNU students union President Mohit Kumar Pandey and representatives of various farmers' organisations sat in protest on the Mhow-Neemuch highway, disrupting traffic. They were detained and later released.
After their detention, Yadav told reporters, "Our arrest is against the law as no written order was shown to us."
"We wanted to meet the families of deceased farmers peacefully and honour them by giving them a letter and soil brought from different parts of the country but we were not allowed to go," he said.
Patkar said, "We are being told that if we go to Mandsaur, peace may get disturbed . We are unable to understand how it will affect peace."
"We are not going there for any protest or demonstration, we just wanted to meet the deceased farmers' family," she said.