Bhopal: Addressing a rally on the first anniversary of Mandsaur police firing on June 6, 2018, at Pipariya Mandi of Madhya Pradesh’s Mandsaur district, then Congress president Rahul Gandhi had made a number of assurances. He had announced a farm loan waiver as well as a fresh probe into the Mandsaur police firing. He had also assured the withdrawal of police cases filed against farmers and activists in the last 15 years, a crackdown on the nexus of middlemen and better rate for crops.
The state Congress had also added these points to its 2018 Assembly election manifesto, finally leading to its win in the state. However, one year later, nothing has changed for the farmers in Mandsaur. No probe has been initiated, no case has been withdrawn against farmers. The promise of loan waiver remains unfulfilled and the government has failed to take any action against the middlemen or to increase the farmers’ income.
On June 6, 2017, six farmers fell prey to the police bullets in Mandsaur, while they were protesting against the then Shivraj Singh Chouhan government demanding better price for their crops. Subsequently, the farmers’ agitation gripped the entire state, protests broke out and the issue grabbed the national headlines. In a bid to calm the agitated farmers, then CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced Rs 1 crore ex-gratia to the deceased family and sat on two days hunger strike.
The Malwa region of the state has the highest number of farmers and has witnessed a number of farmers’ protests in the last couple of years. Mandsaur district has the biggest krishi mandi (farmers’ markets) in the region, which makes it important in the agriculture dominated region.
Loan Waivers? Not Yet
According to the district collector of Mandsaur, Manoj Pushp, more than 1 lakh applications of loan waivers had been received. Out of this, loans of around 78,000 farmers under Rs 50,000 have been waived at a cost of Rs 250 crore. Meanwhile, CM Kamal Nath while speaking at the Indian Women’s Press Club in New Delhi said that, “The second phase of loan waiver is will begun from the third week of December.”
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But what is to be noted is not all the six farmers’ family, who fell prey to the police bullets, have been able to avail the benefits of loan waiver. NewsClick spoke with the families of four of those killed, only one of which has benefited of loan waiver.
Kamlesh Patel (father-in-law of Kanhaiya Lal Patidar, who died in police firing) said his farm loan was waived, while the loans of Dinesh Patiadar, kin of Abhishek Patidar of Barkheda Pant village; and Madhusudhan Patidar, elder brother of 35-year-old Kanhaiyalal Patidar have not been waived yet.
Madhusudhan said, “After the announcement of loan waiver, I stopped paying EMIs. As a result, the bank slapped an interest of Rs 16,000 and I was informed that I do not fit in the parameter of loan waiver as my loan is more than Rs 2 lakh.”
Investigation in the Police Firing Incident
Congress had used the Mandsaur police firing incident as a poll plank against then BJP government led by CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan. Senior Congress leaders including Rahul Gandhi and Kamal Nath had vouched for a fresh probe. But a year after assuming office, the party seems to have turned a blind eye to the issue. Interestingly, Home Minister Bala Bachchan has twice given a clean chit to the police, while replying to questions in the Assembly in the last one year.
“The Mandsaur police followed all guidelines while opening fire in self-defence and trying to protect private and government property on June 6, 2017,” Bachchan had said in the reply to the house.
As the issue snowballed into a major controversy, the minister told reporters, “I wish to clarify we haven’t assigned clean chit to anyone.” He said the state government was examining the Jain Commission report on the firing and if needed, a re-probe might be ordered. “Documents compiled by the previous BJP government were used for responding to the query in the Assembly,” he added. The Kamal Nath government had also reassured about the initiation of a probe and justice to the farmers.
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“Rahul Gandhi had promised to bring justice for us and punishment to the offenders when he came to meet us in Mandsaur. He also announced from the stage that his government will re-investigate the case, if voted to power. Now, he, too, is turning his back. It seems that we have lost the only hope for justice,” said Madhusudhan Patidar.
“We were hopeful with the new government that they will reopen the case and punish the killers of my innocent brother, irrespective of the previous BJP government who had been protecting the offenders. But, it seems that Congress has become the new BJP,” Patidar added.
Mandsaur farmer leader Deelip Patidar said that two police officials, Anil Singh (Station incharge) and Sharawan Bhandari (SDM), who were responsible for the firing was promoted by the new Congress government.
Withdrawal of police cases
According to sources, more than 7,000 cases had been registered under various sections of the IPC against farmers for creating riot and commotion in the region during the 2017 protest. Following their win in the election, Congress Law Minister PC Sharma had announced to withdraw criminal cases registered against farmers, political leaders and party workers during the last 15 years of BJP regime. The government was likely to drop 50,000 cases, according to a report in the Asian Age.
Mandsaur collector Manoj Pushp said that 64 police cases, which were registered during the protests, with the names of 38,000 farmers have been so far withdrawn. But farmer leader Amritlal Patidar claimed that only those names which were registered for participating in the protest were removed, but those who were booked under rigorous sections still have cases against them.
However, the Congress manifesto had promised to withdraw “all false criminal cases registered against farmers during the farmers’ agitations (Kisan Andolans)/ political agitations by farmers and agitations done by social/political workers.” Minister for Sports and Youth Welfare, Jeetu Patwari had said on January 17, 2019, "All cases registered by the government and administration with the intent of political malice and vengeance will be withdrawn."
CM Kamal Nath had also formed a committee of two ministers, Law Minister PC Sharma and Home Minister Bala Bachchan to look into the withdrawal of cases. But so far only 172 cases have been withdrawn Bacchan had said while addressing a press conference at party office on the completing 11 months in office. However, on being questioned about the withdrawal of cases against Mandsaur farmers, he replied, “We have been working on it and soon we will made it public.”
Amritlal Patidar, a farmer leader of Mandsaur’s Balaguda village who has been booked under 25 various sections of the IPC, said, “Farmers were happy when government announced to withdraw cases, but, even after a year in office, the police cases are giving us sleepless nights. And instead of focusing on farming we are worried about court cases.”
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“The court has begun delivering verdict on the cases registered against farmers during the protest and in some cases bail has been revoked. What is the point of withdrawing cases, if, court has begun punishing them?” Patidar asked. Just like Patidar, thousands of farmers are anxious as the court has begun delivering verdicts on the cases against them.
Commenting over the issue, senior leader of Bhartiya Mazdoor Kisan Sabha, Badal Saroj said that the first year of Congress government is unsatisfying for farmers and the people of Mandsaur. CM Nath is trying to run the state as company, sitting in office and giving orders.
“Congress should not forget that Mandsaur farmers’ protest and subsequent killing had proved as the last nail in the coffin for the BJP. It brought the previous government to its knees and the Congress hailed this issue to target the saffron party during the election campaign. But, now, the government is turning it’s back. From farm loan waiver to reinstating probe in farmers’ killing, withdrawing police case or crackdown against the loot of middlemen in the mandi and insurance company, everything is as similar to the erstwhile BJP government,” he added.
Another farmer leader and member of Bhartiya Kisan Sangh, Shivkumar Shukla told NewsClick, “Nothing has changed for the farmers in the Congress regime. The party has been defying Rahul Gandhi’s promises made to the farmers when he met the victims’ families. He has promised for justice, but, there is no justice except peril.”
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He claimed that the money under Bhawantar Bhugtan Yojana has not been paid for the last three years. Insurance companies have deducted the money from farmers, but, no money has been paid by the government. “I have repeatedly expressed my concern on the Mandsaur issue to the Chief Minister and Home Minister, but, no action has been taken,” he added.
Kedar Siroshi, a farmer leader who is also associated to the ruling party, said, “Whatever the consequences are, government should fulfil the promises made in its manifesto. Injustice had been done to the Mandsaur farmers, government should look into it.”