The road to Balaguda village in Mandsaur district of Madhya Pradesh was speckled with blood of six farmers who fell prey to the bullets of the state government 17 months ago.
The blood may have dried up, but its stains are still etched in the memory of those farmhands and of the family members of the deceased who wanted to have their voice heard. Nothing has changed since the day of firing, and instead of punishing the police officials who opened fire on farmers, the government has given them a clean chit, saying that the administration had resorted to firing in self defence.
Now, the farmers are thinking of teaching a lesson to the BJP government. So, they are eagerly waiting for November 28, 2018 when the state goes to polls. The kin of deceased farmers have been demanding action against the police officials and personnel who opened fire on farmers on June 6, 2017, while, the farmers are still waiting to get full minimum support price (MSP) of their crops, and also for the implementation of the Swaminathan Commission recommendations.
“I have lost my brother for nothing,” said Madusudhan Patidar, the elder brother of deceased Kanhaiyalal Patidar, adding that no development has taken place whatsoever. “We are still not getting the right MSP. Also, after Kanhaiyalal’s death, his wife fell mentally ill, and the entire family fell apart. I’m the only breadwinner in the family, and we are totally dependent on agriculture, but it is no more profitable,” added Patidar.
When asked whether the Bhavantar Bhugtan scheme of the state government has helped farmers in any way, he said, “We will only satisfied when the government will implement Swaminathan Commission recommendations, nothing less than that.”
Even after 17 months of the incident, the BJP government has taken no step to douse farmers’ frustration. “Farmers are still angry. Last year, the agitation erupted due to the lower price of soyabean and onion, and now the crashing price of garlic, which is selling at a price between Rs 2 to 8 per kg has depressed the farmers,” said farmer leader Kedar Serohi, while adding that Bhavantar Scheme has only helped the traders, more than farmers.
The Bhavantar Scheme which was introduced soon after the Mandsaur protest in August 2017 to give some relief to the farmers seems ineffective. Since then, over 6.35 lakh farmers have registered themselves, and Rs 1,900 crore have been distributed to the farmers until March 2018, as per the state government data.
But, the situation is grim in Mandsaur mandis. Pure milk is being sold at a price between Rs 21 to 23 a litre, while rates of all the products are much higher in the market. “Businessmen are fetching all the profits, and farmers are still poor. If this scenario does not change, there could be another agitation which would be more intensive than the previous one,” said farmers’ leader Amritlal Patidar.
Depressed with the lower price of onion and soyabean, and for the demand of implementation of Swaminathan Commission recommendations, farmers had announced a 10-day strike from June 1, 2017. During the strike, agitated farmers dumped vegetables, and onions, and spilled milk on the roads to register their disappointment. The farmers’ protest in Mandsaur received support from nearby districts from Malwa region.
On the sixth day of strike, when farmers were trying to block the Mandsaur-Mau highway near Balaguda village trisection to get chief minister’s attention, police allegedly opened fire on farmers. The incident drew huge criticism, and protests erupted from all over the state. The police had to later impose Section 144 to control the situation.
Appealing for peace, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan sat on hunger strike in the state capital, and also announced sops for the deceased and injured. Rs 1 crore and a job were promised to the family of the deceased, and Rs 5 lakh to injured.
The state government then constituted Justice JK Jain committee to look into the firing incident. The committee was asked to submit the report within three months. However, the committee has taken six months to submit its report, which is yet to be public. As per the media reports, the Jain committee has justified the police action, and has given clean chit to the police.
However, the families of the deceased have reportedly received Rs 1 crore compensation and a job by the state government.
Family of the deceased seeks justice
Mandsaur firing has become a focal point of farmers’ agitation in the state, but the root cause of the anger is revolving around the MSP. Of the six killed farmers, four belonged to the dominant Patidar community.
Dinesh Patidar of Barkhedapanth, whose son Abhishek (17) died in the police firing, said, “We are still angry that no action has been taken against the policemen who killed my son.” The mother of Babloo Patidar (25), Poonamchand, said that the police officers gruesomely shot her only son, and instead of punishing the culprits, the state government is defending them.
Demanding fresh and unbiased investigation into the matter, Poonamchand said, “The state government has given a clean chit to the police officers instead of punishing them. It seems like nothing has happened and no one has killed the farmers, and they killed themselves. Is this justice?”
She asserted that the death of his son will not only affect her family but the entire farmer community. “The wail of the famers’ families will destroy the citadel of BJP government. Their death will not go on vain and we will take revenge on November 28.”
The anger also persists because of the 1,200 case bond signed under Section 107/16 of CrPc in the district and 400 villagers were booked in connection with the June 2017 violence.
“Police raided our houses, misbehaved with our family members. The accused farmers have been treated like terrorists. Some of us had gone to jail, and had to knock on court’s door to get bail,” said farmers’ leader Amritlal Patidar, against whom, there are 23 cases filed under 26 sections of the IPC and CrPc.
Months after the incident, the chief minister announced rollback of all the cases filed against the farmers, but the cases are still stand, claimed Amritlal Patidar.
In a bid to give tribute to all six deceased persons, the farmers have installed their statue in their respective villages with a slogan ‘Jai Kisan’.
Six farmers had been reportedly injured in the police firing, and they have received their compensation after a long battle with the government. District administration deposited Rs 75,000 in their bank accounts soon after the incident, but reportedly refused to pay rest 4.25 lakh.
“When we held protests outside collector’s office, and showed them the chief minister’s video, then they released the funds – after four to five months of the incident,” said Surendra Singh, a farmer who has survived a bullet injury.
Another injured, Murli Sharma (31), has a similar story. While talking to the Newsclick, both said that the injury has affected their normal life. They can’t work, as they did earlier. “I’m a farmer, and this injury has paralysed me. I can’t run, work or sit properly. If I don’t work, then who will feed my family and children?” asked Murli, who has been shot in his right thigh.
The other injured persons – Jitendra Singh (20), Roada Singh (19), Dashrat Udayram (25) and Amritram – describe the same ordeal.
“The main issues of MSP and implementation of Swaminathan Commission report have lost somewhere in this incident. The farmers are still distressed,” said one of the injured.
Congress Promises Justice
On the first anniversary of Mandsaur police firing, Congress had held a massive rally in the district. Congress president Rahul Gandhi met with the kin of deceased and injured. He reportedly promised justice to them if Congress comes to power in Madhya Pradesh.
However, the BJP MP from Mandsaur, Sudhir Gupta, has blamed Congress for the farmers’ protest. “The government has made a lot of efforts to normalise the situation and make farming profitable, but the Congress did not like it, and the party has been constantly trying to create anarchy in the area in the name of farmers’ protest in Mandsaur,” he said.
He added, “Swaminathan himself will be happy with the efforts of current state and the central government, which have been constantly working for the uplifting of the farmers.”