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Mandsaur farmer killings: Rahul Gandhi tries to visit kin, arrested

Akash Bisht | Updated on: 8 June 2017, 20:59 IST
(Twitter/INC India)

There was high political drama at Neemuch town on the Madhya Pradesh-Rajasthan border on Thursday, as Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi was first detained, and later arrested by the police under Section 151.

The 44-year-old leader was on his way to Mandsaur – the epicentre of violent clashes between farmers and security forces – to meet the kin of those killed in police firing on Tuesday.

Farmers in western Madhya Pradesh have been demanding a loan waiver and higher minimum support prices for their produce, leading to violent protests, which resulted in five people being shot dead by the police.

The deaths aggravated the situation, with farmers and police clashing at several places in western Madhya Pradesh.

How the drama unfolded

On Wednesday, the district administration had said neither the Gandhi scion nor any other politician would be allowed to enter Mandsaur. But Gandhi decided to defy the state administration's orders, and was arrested after he tried to jump a barricade to enter the town.

The Congress vice-president landed at the Udaipur Airport in the morning, and then reached Mandsaur by car. However, he was stopped at the border, after which he hopped on to a bike before setting out on foot. He was then taken into preventive custody and later arrested, along with former MP CM Digvijaya Singh, senior MP Congress leader Kamal Nath, Rajasthan Congress chief Sachin Pilot and Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav.

During his attempts to reach Mandsaur, Gandhi had heated arguments with police, as did Singh, Nath and Yadav. “How can you stop me?” he was heard telling a policeman.

“One cannot enter MP if your ideology doesn't match with the RSS,” said Gandhi, accusing the Narendra Modi government at the Centre of being worried only about the rich, and how loans worth lakhs of crores taken by the rich have been waived off. “Modiji can't waive off loans of farmers, can't give good rates and bonus or compensation, he can only give bullets to farmers,” he told the media.

In a series of tweets, Gandhi said he spoke to the kin of the victims over the phone, and informed the district administration that he wouldn't seek bail until he was allowed to meet the family members.

Hours after all this, Gandhi was finally let off and allowed to interact with the families, who had been taken to Rajasthan border by the police for the interaction.

Meanwhile, while interacting with media, Digvijaya Singh said the law and order situation had deteriorated in the state, and for the resignations of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Home Minister Bhupendra Singh.

During his interaction with the media, Singh blamed the RSS and the CM for creating such a volatile situation in the state.

Farmer leaders' ire

The former CM's claims were backed by Irfan Jaffri Raisen of the Kisan Jagruti Sangathan, who accused the RSS of being the real villain of these violent protests. “The leaders of the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) joined hands with the protesting farmers, and said they will lead the protest against the state government. Later, they surreptitiously entered into an agreement with the CM in Ujjain without informing others. They claimed that the protests have been deferred, which enraged the farmers,” Raisen said.

Another farmer leader, Kedar Singh, claimed that the BKS backstabbed the poor farmers, and never raised two crucial demands of loan waiver and higher MSP. “Instead, they agreed to a new rule wherein payments in mandis would be made half in cash and half through RTGS (Real Time Gross Settlement). We never demanded this. We do not earn black money, so even if they transfer all the money through RTGS into our bank account, we have no problem. This was done to protect the interests of traders,” he added.

Both farmer leaders were particularly upset with the deaths of five farmers, and claimed that two sets of laws existed in India. “Why don't we ever see police shooting protestors belonging to the BJP or the Congress? Why were plastic bullets, tear gas and other less lethal ways not used? Why shoot them in the chest when their lives could have been saved by shooting at their legs? Even in Kashmir, security forces are not using bullets. Why this bias against farmers?” questioned Kedar Singh.

According to the farmer leaders, mindless statements by ministers also added to the farmers' ire, especially when the state Home Minister called the protesting farmers 'anti-social elements' belonging to the Congress.

“Accusing us of being Congress-backed is wrong. Our Chief Minister himself had said that the Congress is a dead party, so how can a dead party support anyone? It is natural for political parties to join such protests for mileage, but these are baseless rumours,” Raisen said.

The state home minister had earlier claimed that the police did not fire at the protestors, to which Raisen responded: “So did the bullet come from Pakistan, or did aliens come to shoot at us?”

On Thursday, the Home Minister admitted that the police did fire at the protestors, and that the Mandsaur district magistrate and Superintendent of Police for Indore have been transferred.

CM's emotional appeal

These political developments forced CM Chouhan to make an emotional appeal, wherein he said his government was open to dialogue to ensure peace returns to the state.

In an official statement, Chouhan said: “The state government is of the farmers and public. I will continue to work for them.”

Moreover, he also announced a slew of measures to protect the interests of the farmers.

Meanwhile, the situation has marginally improved in the region, but for how long remains to be seen, considering farmers' organisations have called for a maha-jam on 10 June.

First published: 8 June 2017, 20:59 IST