After drought, farmers in India have to fight the government institutions too. Really, is there nowhere they can go? At least 5 people have been killed and over a dozen have been injured in fires shot at a farmers' protest in Mandsaur district of Madhya Pradesh. The farmers were protesting demanding a loan waiver from the government. They also demanded that their crops be given a minimum selling price to help them survive the drought. 

Confirming the deaths, Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangh Chairman Shivkumar Sharma identified them as Bablu Patidar, Sarender Patidar, Kanhaiya, Satyanarayan, and Akhilesh, a college student.

The incident happened on Tuesday and immediately after that, curfew was issued in Mandsaur and Pipliamandi. All connectivity including the Internet were severed. The death tolls are unconfirmed and inside sources say that the figures may rise. 

Despite the insistence of the State Government that the police and the CRPF did not fire at the farmers, the BJP state chief contradicted the government. One of the injured, Murali Sharma, speaking to the TOI said, "I heard gunshots and saw policemen firing at a section of protesters nearest to them." He also said that the policemen beat him with lathis even as he was bleeding. 

MP government has promised to buy onions from farmers at Rs 8 per Kg and moong dal at an agreed price.

Confirming the turn of events, Nandkumar Singh Chouhan, the BJP state chief in Bhopal, said,"Shots were fired by the administration, as far as I know."

However, the state government had a different take on the incident. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, ordering a judicial inquiry, said that anti-social elements were involved in the  protest and the gun shots were first fired from the crowd. He announced Rs 1 crore compensation and job for the next in kin of the dead and Rs 5 lakh and free treatment for those injured. The CM accused Congress of instigating the violence and said, "The deaths in Mandsaur are unfortunate. The demands of farmers have been met. I request them not to be misled by provocation." Reacting to the accusation, AICC vice-President Rahul Gandhi said that this government is at war with the farmers of our country.

What exactly happened?

Riots broke out in Pipliamandi on Monday night when farmers damaged railway tracks and railway crossing gates in Mandsaur. They also set fire to vehicles and attacked cops. The following day, protesters at Piplia Toll Naka threw stones at police and torched 27 vehicles. Shots were fired around noon, which claimed five lives. DM Swatantra K Singh, immediately ordered Internet shutdown so that the unrest did not spread in other districts.

A police check post in Nahargarh was also set on fire. Apart from the curfew imposed on Mandsaur and Pipliamandi, section 144 was also enforced in neighbouring Ratlam district. Despite the government's assurances that it would buy onions and moong dal from the farmers, the protests are intensifying. Farmers are likely to observe the strike from June 1 to June 10, pressing their demands on the government. The government, meanwhile assured the farmers that it would purchase onions from them at Rs 8 per Kg and moong dal at an agreed price. A Rs 1,000-crore stabilisation fund would also be set up. 

Maha farmers are no takers of hollowed promises, demand Raj Thackeray as their leader

As the farmers' agitation spreads across various parts of India like wild fire, a recent development in Maharashtra has taken the nation by surprise. Despite, the Fadnavis-government's promises of engaging the best farmer packages, including the largest farmer loan waiver in the country, the farmers have not stopped agitating. Instead, they have come up with a new demand, asking Maharashtra Navnirman Sena President Raj Thackeray to lead them. Farmer activists met the leader who gave them a patient hearing, but did not give any assurance. Farmers in Maharashtra believe only an aggressive leader like Raj Thackeray could lead them through the tough time. Otherwise, their voices will go unheard. 

Recent developments

According to a PTI report, Mandsaur collector, when he tried to pacify the protesting farmers, a day after five persons were killed in violence during their agitation here, was heckled. Also, former MP from Mandsaur, Meenakshi Natarajan, was detained while she was on her way to meet the family members of the deceased. Meanwhile, in Maharashtra, Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray accused the Centre for pushing the farmers into greater despair due to demonetisation. 

According to PTI, In an editorial in its mouthpiece Saamana, the bickering ally also questioned the apathy of the government towards the agricultural sector at a time when industry and the services sector received periodical boosts for their development.