After Maharashtra, farmer unrest rocks MP: 6 killed in firing, government ready for talks
As Maharashtra moved to contain an ongoing protest by farmers with a loan exemption, a similar protest in neighboring Madhya Pradesh took a violent turn Tuesday when at least six peasants were killed and eight others injured in two separate incidents In Mandsaur. Farmers have been looking for better prices for their products and exemption from lending. After demonstrators alleged that police shot them, Madhya Pradesh Interior Minister Bhupendra Singh, who had previously denied the allegation, later admitted that police may have fired in self-defense at one place. A judicial inquiry has been ordered and curfew imposed on Mandsaur.
Prime Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced a compensation of Rs 1 crore and a work to the close relatives of each dead and Rs five lakh and free treatment to the injured. An official said that of the six dead, five were killed when farmers attempted to raid Pipalia Mandi police station and resorted to fires. This attack followed the death of a farmer in the village of Bahi, not far from Pipalia Mandi. Madhya Pradesh The head of Patidar Samaj, Mahendra Patidar, said that the bodies of five killed in Pipalia Mandi will not be cremated until the Prime Minister arrives there. He identified the dead as Kanhaiyalal Patidar, Babloo Patidar, Chainram Patidar, Abhishek Patidar and Nathulal Patidar.
In Mandsaur and neighboring Neemuch district, protesters have set ablaze vehicles, blocked traffic and mistreated police officers while sporadic incidents have occurred in other parts of the state since June 1 when the Union Bharatiya Kisan (BKU) announced the agitation. During the last three days, protests intensified in the districts of Mandsaur, Neemuch, Ratlam and Indore. Demonstrators set fire to about a dozen vehicles and attacked the railroad tracks near Mandsaur on Monday night. On Tuesday, a group of peasants blocked traffic near Pipalia Mandi and threw stones at police and CRPF personnel. Security agencies launched tear gas shells to disperse the crowd. It was unclear who ordered the shot.
Calling it “a conspiracy,” Prime Minister Chouhan accused the Opposition Congress of instigating farmers. “I was sad, the administration had been told not to order the firing, but to talk to the farmers, but some criminal elements went into the protest,” he said. Chouhan appealed to farmers to remain calm. He said his government was ready for the talks. “Madhya Pradesh has been an island of peace,” he said. The Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangh (RKMS), a group formed by a former RSS worker, and Congress have asked for a bandh on Wednesday. The RKMS was formed by Shivkumar Sharma, who used to be a bearer of Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) affiliated with RSS, until he led a violent upheaval in 2012 in which a farmer died while firing in the Raisen district. Launched out of RSS and BKS, Sharma floated the RKMS.
The BKS and RKMS entered the ongoing protest only after it was extended. On Sunday, the Chief Minister called the BKS for talks in Ujjain. BKS officials announced that since Chouhan had assured them they would buy onions at 8 rupees per kilo and make half the cash payment to mandis, they were regaining agitation. The agitation of the farmers now observed is basically along two belts: Nashik-Ahmadnagar-Pune extending to Satara-Sangli-Kolhapur in Maharashtra, and Ratlam-Mandsaur-Neemuch in Madhya Pradesh. What is common to both belts – apart from being in the western part of the two states – is that they are home to relatively prosperous farmers, unlike their counterparts in the predominantly dry regions of Vidarbha / Marathwada or Bundelkhand.
The farmers of Ratlam-Mandsaur-Neemuch cultivate not only the common soybeans, wheat and chana cultivated in the rest of Madhya Pradesh, but also a range of spices of seeds and medicinal plants of meti (fenugreek), dhaniya (cilantro), Jeera Comino) and ajwain (caraway) to garlic, isabgol (psyllium), white musli and ashwagandha. The same is true of Western Maharashtra farmers who have grown grapes, onions and pomegranates, as well as marketing dairy products by investing in high-yield dairy holstein-fries cows.