After witnessing tumult in the last few days, anti-riot paramilitary forces on Thursday moved into violence-hit areas of Madhya Pradesh’s Mandsaur district, but the situation appeared to be improving in the troubled regions where farmers have been protesting for over a week demanding debt relief.
As contingents of the Rapid Action Force (RAF) fanned out into the district, the state government shunted out Mandsaur collector Swatantra Singh and Superintendent of Police O P Tripathi.
Curfew, imposed Wednesday after escalating violence, was relaxed for two hours from 4 pm, as officials said the situation appeared to be improving.
The police, however, said some areas were still tense.
In Naya Gaon, about 70 kms from Mandsaur, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, accompanied by senior Congress leaders and the JD(U)’s Sharad Yadav, was detained by the police when the opposition leaders tried to make their way from the Rajasthan border to Mandsaur, the ground zero of the farmer protests.
There was high drama as the police tried to stop what had turned into a rally of sorts with Rahul Gandhi leading from the front. When police tried to push him back, he ran into a field nearby from where he was detained.
Gandhi was released after over four hours of detention in the guest house of a cement company.
Farmers in Mandsaur have been protesting since June 1 demanding loan waiver and better crop prices. Five farmers were killed in police firing on Tuesday as the agitation turned violent.
The government has brought in Manoj Kumar Singh from Neemuch as the new SP of Mandsaur. The collector of Shivpuri, O P Srivastava, who took charge of the district, said he faced a challenging situation.
Divisional Commissioner M B Ojha told PTI, “For the last two to three days, farmers were stopping vehicles and setting them on fire.”
Police said seven cases were lodged and 62 people detained in connection with the violence. Burnt vehicles were removed from the Mhow-Neemuch highway today, and traffic had resumed.
Rajnath Singh on Mandsaur violence
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said some forces were instigating the agitation and the issue was under investigation.
“I feel there is no need of security forces when it comes to farmers’ protest. But as per the available information, there are some forces instigating the agitation (in MP). As the state government has ordered an enquiry into the matter, we should wait for its findings,” he told reporters to a query on the police firing in Mandsaur district leading to the death of five farmers.
NDA-BJP ki sarkaar koi aisa kaam nahi karegi jisse kisaan aur aam aadmi ka bharosa tute: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh pic.twitter.com/VS6RpjzKpM— ANI (@ANI_news) June 8, 2017
Another cabinet minister M Venkaiah Naidu accused the Congress of "instigating violence and politicising" the farmers' stir in Madhya Pradesh and termed party leader Rahul Gandhi's visit to Mandsaur as "another photo opportunity".