Bhopal: Two months after forming the government, the Madhya Pradesh Congress government on Monday, February 18, took a u-turn from Rahul Gandhi’s poll promise ‘to probe and ensure punishment to the Mandsaur Police firing culprits, if voted to power.’
Replying to the question of MLA Harsh Gehlot in Assembly, Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Bala Bachchan in his written reply said, “On June 6, 2017, police firing at Bahi Chaupati on Mhow-Neemuch Road in the absence of executive magistrate, was done by complying to Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for self-defence. It was to protect government and private property. The order was given by Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) Malhargarh, Sharavan Bhandari in Pipliya Mandi.”
Earlier in 2017, farmers had held state-wide protests in Madhya Pradesh demanding better prices for their crops. The agitation was marred by violence in many parts of the state, especially in Mandsaur, which emerged as the epicentre of protests. On June 6, 2017, six farmers fell prey to the bullets of police in Mandsaur district.
Also Read: Mandsaur Firing Probe Panel Gives A Clean Chit to the Police and CRPF
A year after the incident, on June 6, 2018, Congress president Rahul Gandhi met with the family members of the deceased farmers and promised justice. Later, he shared the dais with them and promised justice while addressing a massive ‘Kisan rally’ at Khokhra in Pipliya Mandi in Mandsaur.
Photo of Rahul Gandhi paying tribute to the photos of deceased farmers
While addressing the farmers’ rally, Rahul Gandhi had said, “Even after one year, there hasn't been an enquiry on the Mandsaur police firing. The families of the farmers who were killed are still waiting for justice. We will probe the matter and punish the culprits, if voted to power.”
Photo of MP Congress' twitter handle terming 'Mandsaur firing - a black day'
At the same rally, he also announced a farm loan waiver upto Rs. 2 lakh and the newly formed government's first announcement emphasised that their party doesn’t make hollow promises. However, in the latest turn of events, the Kamal Nath led-Congress government has taken a u-turn by defying Rahul Gandhi’s promise.
Bala Bachchan further informed the house that the firing ‘was done to control the violent mob. SDM Shravan Bhandari, following the legal process, had ordered for fire.’
Retired justice JK Jain who had conducted the probe in the matter had already submitted the report giving a clean chit to the police to the government months ago, however, the government has not released the report yet.
Referring to the Justice Jain report, Bachchan said, “The report is being reviewed and appropriate legal action will be taken after examining the findings.” Bachchan said that the Jain report had mentioned “communication gap” between farmers and officials. He added that the report said, “The administration wasn’t aware of their demands and did not make any effort to find out. But the district administration wasn’t in a position to address demands that farmers should get better prices or a loan waiver. Thus, police firing on June 6 was necessary and legal.”
Now, Bachchan’s reply just clarifies the government’s stand in support of the report on the firing incident.
It should be noted that even after coming to power in the state, Congress minister Jitu Patwari, who had accompanied All India Congress Committee (AICC) chief Rahul Gandhi during his Mandsaur visit in June 2017, had said, “Those who fired at the farmers in Mandsaur shouldn’t be spared.” Patwari had also tweeted on December 25, 2018, that the Congress government will “reopen the Mandsaur investigation”.
Kin of Farmers Feel Cheated
The kin of the deceased and injured farmers, and farmers’ leaders have expressed that they are feeling cheated after the Congress government’s clean chit to the police in the Mandsaur firing.
“Rahul Gandhi had promised justice for us and punishment for 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, elder brother of deceased Kanhaiyalal Patidar.
Also Read: Revisiting Mandsaur 17 Months After the Protest, Nothing Changed, Say Farmers
While another relative, Abhishek Patidar said, “We believed that Congress president Rahul Gandhi will not run from his own promises and we hoped for the justice but here we are. It seems that we have been cheated.”
Farmer leader Amritlal Patidar, who was the main accused in the Mandsaur farmers’ protest said, “BJP’s attempt to put the matter under the carpet has succeeded. Congress’s u-turn has come as a shock and is very shameful. The last hope of justice has died down.”
Interestingly, during the election campaign, the Congress had attacked the then ruling BJP government relentlessly on Mandsaur firing.