Violence erupted in several parts of Madhya Pradesh — but particularly in Mandsaur — on Wednesday, June 7, as farmers continued their stir against the BJP-ruled state government. Added to their earlier demands for sops was the demand for action against those responsible for killing five protesting farmers in Mandsaur on Tuesday.
As their protests turned violent — several vehicles were torched — five battalions of paramilitary forces were deployed in Mandsaur. By Wednesday evening, another 1,100 paramilitary personnel in another five battalions were being sent to the area.
The protesters on Wednesday said that the death toll in the firing, which they claimed was done by the police, had risen to eight. They also heckled District Collector Swantra Singh, who visited the place on Wednesday to take stock of the situation. "There was no order [to the police] to open fire [at the farmers]. I have assured them of strict action," he told ANI after the incident.
Meanwhile, under pressure from various quarters over the incident, MP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had already spoken about the incident on Tuesday and condemned it. He had also announced compensation of Rs 5 lakh for the next of kin of the deceased and Rs 2 lakh for those injured in the firing. He subsequently raised these to Rs 1 crore and Rs 5 lakh, respectively.
However, despite Chouhan's assurances and the collector's visit, protests continued in Mandsaur. At some places, agitators turned violent and torched several vehicles, including those belonging to the police, as a show of anger against the cops, who they blame for Tuesday's firing.
Watch the video of the violence here:
Following the torching of vehicles and deteriorating of the situation, MP Inspector General of Police (Law & Order) M Deuskar told ANI: "There have been reports of violence in Ujjain, Dewas, Mandsaur, Neemuch and Sehore. Curfew has been imposed in Mandsaur and Piplia Mandi only."
The MP Human Rights Commission has taken cognizance of the incident and sought an explanation on it from senior officers.
Political blame game
The Congress lost no opportunity to show the BJP, which rules MP, in a bad light over the farmer killings. Following Rahul Gandhi's statements on the killings on Tuesday, Congress leader Digvijaya Singh said the same day: "We ask the people of Madhya Pradesh to support the cause of farmers. There should be complete MP 'bandh' [shutdown] tomorrow."
Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leader Sharad Yadav weighed in on Wednesday, saying: "I cannot recall such a massacre [having happened ever before]. They [the authorities] are saying five-six are dead, but I believe there are more." He added: "I met Rahul ji [Rahul Gandhi] today. We are planning to go there. We will go together if we do."
The BJP, in turn, chose to blame the Congress. Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu told reporters on Wednesday: "Madhya Pradesh is an island of peace. I tell the Congress: 'Don't politicise the issue. Don't fuel violence in the name of farmers'."
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh — who is also from the BJP — said of his MP counterpart: "Shivraj ji has done a lot of work for farmers and in the agriculture sector. The Mandsaur incident is unfortunate."