Mandsaur/Bhopal, June 8: Mandsaur in Madhya Pradesh was calm on Thursday, two days after police shot dead five protesting farmers, but Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi’s attempt to meet the deceased farmers’ kin raised political temperature in the state.
Gandhi was arrested along with 29 other leaders including Janata Dal-United’s Sharad Yadav when they entered the BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh but were later released on personal bonds. The Congress leader then met some farmers and expressed solidarity with them.
After being prevented from entering violence-hit Mandsaur, Gandhi accused the Narendra Modi government of favouring the rich and giving farmers “only bullets”. After Gandhi got bail, the curfew imposed on Tuesday evening was released in the area for two hours from 4 p.m.
“Modi waived off loans worth Rs 150,000 crore for the richest people in India,” Gandhi said, “But they can’t pay the right price to farmers for their produce, they can’t give compensation either. They can give only bullets.”
Asked who was responsible for the killing of the five farmers on Tuesday, Gandhi said: “(Prime Minister) Narendra Modi and (Madhya Pradesh) Chief Minister (Shivraj Singh Chouhan)”.
Gandhi entered Madhya Pradesh by car from Rajasthan and switched over to a bike in a bid to reach Mandsaur after seeing police deployment. But he could not go too far.
Congress leaders Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh as well as Sharad Yadav were also stopped from meeting the families of the dead farmers.
When they reached Neemuch near Mandsaur, Kamal Nath demanded to know why they were being stopped as they were only three in number and so not violating the prohibitory orders.
A former Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Digvijaya Singh said: “This government is acting foolishly. Shivraj Singh Chouhan must resign.”
He said the Congress and JD-U leaders didn’t go to Mandsaur to ignite passions. “We have come here to ease the tension. We have come to talk to the farmers.”
He said the Chief Minister had promised farmers 1.5 times return on the yield of crops. “Why hasn’t he implemented his own promise?”
Amid the simmering tension, the Madhya Pradesh government transferred the District Magistrates of Mandsaur, Ratlam and Neemuch districts. The Mandsaur Police Superintendent was also shunted out. All three places witnessed violence by farmers.
The BJP accused the Congress of instigating the violence and said Gandhi’s conduct was irresponsible.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the Modi government would not do anything that breaks the faith of farmers and the common man.
“There is information that some people were involved in instigating violence,” he said.
Chief Minister Chouhan urged the farmers to maintain peace and vowed to resolve the crisis through talks.
He said anti-social elements trying to inject instability would be dealt with strictly.
Meanwhile, Youth Congress workers organised a Rail Roko protest at Mumbai’s Ghatkopar railway station over the farmers’ protest.
Union Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu described Gandhi’s visit as “another photo opportunity”.
Another Union Minister, Narendra Singh Tomar, dubbed Gandhi’s decision to visit Mandsaur as “irresponsible”.
The farmers agitation in Madhya Pradesh entered the eighth day on Thursday.
On Tuesday, police fired at farmers after they reportedly resorted to violence in Mandsaur district. The Madhya Pradesh government says five farmers were killed in police firing but the leaders of farmer groups claim eight died.
The farmers want their loans to be written off and their produce to be bought at a fair price by the government.