At least five farmers were killed and several injured in Madhya Pradesh’s Mandsaur district on Tuesday when police fired on protesters demanding better prices in the drought-ravaged region that recorded a farm suicide every five hours in 2016-17.
The government struggled to tamp down tensions on Wednesday in Madhya Pradesh’s Mandsaur district a day after police firing killed five farmers during protests in an incident that has snowballed into a nationwide political storm.
Tensions ran high in the town of Pipalia as shops and markets remained closed and internet services suspended, with scores of police personnel patrolling the streets. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi is likely to visit the spot on Wednesday. Curfew is clamped across the district.
Angry farmers have said they will not cremate the five bodies unless chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan visited the district, and have called for a strike supported by the opposition Congress. Many farmers have blocked the Neemuch-Mahu highway with the body of one deceased farmer.
“Last night police caned farmers who gathered at the mortuary. However, they allowed the bodies to be taken away in the wee hours. But we continue to stick to our demand that until and unless the CM visits the district, the cremation will not take place”, said Patidar Samaj, Neemuch president Mahesh Patidar. All five farmers were from the Patidar community, a traditional vote base of the ruling BJP.
Official sources said Chouhan didn’t plan to visit the district. State BJP president Nandkumar Singh was trying to persuade the farmers to allow the cremation.
The firing on Tuesday came during raucous protests to demand better crop prices in the drought-ravaged region that saw one farmer suicide every five hours in the past two years.
The situation is bad in the Malwa-Nimad region, which comprises 15 districts, including Mandsaur where a second year of bumper onion crops found no buyers, forcing the government to announce belated a price of Rs 8 per kilogram.
Farmers are angry because the government neither made arrangements to procure the crop on time nor intervened to ensure a reasonable price. They dumped onions on roads as prices of the vegetables plummeted to as low as Re 1 to Rs 2 per kg in certain markets, especially in the Malwa region, last year. This year too, farmers had to sell their winter crop — tomato and potato — at throwaway prices, bearing heavy loss.