BHOPAL: Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan sat on an indefinite fast at Dussehra Maidan here today for "restoration of peace" amid a farmers' agitation in the state.
Chouhan, clad in kurta-pajama and a Nehru jacket, sat on fast at a pandal erected at Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited's Dussehra Maiden here at around 11 am after former chief minister Kailash Joshi put a 'tilak' on his forehead.
Chouhan's wife Sadhana was by his side.
"I know of the bumper crop production that has sent the prices crashing down in the state. I know your (farmers) problems," he said addressing a gathering, including cultivators, here.
"The state government stands firm with the farmers. We are going to buy the farm produce and give profitable prices for it," he assured.
The CM also said, “My each breath in last few hours has been taken for the development of Madhya Pradesh, adding that the government’s priority was farming in the state. More than 65 percent of our population is dependent on farming. So the state cannot move ahead without the farmers."
Chouhan asserted that after him becoming the chief minister, farmers in the state got 40 lakh hectares of land which was initially 7.5 lakh hectares only.
Highlighting his various schemes for the farmers, Chouhan further said, "Whenever, there has been a crisis, I did not sit at my office and visited the farmers myself."
“I won’t sit in my office at Vallabh Bhawan on Saturday, but instead start a fast at the Dussehra ground in the BHEL campus at Bhopal from 11 am. I invite all those indulging in the violent stir to start a dialogue with us there,” Chouhan said yesterday.
“I have been appealing to the protesters for peace as those pelting the stones and those giving them the stones are all our own. Only dialogue can resolve the crisis. Anyone who wants to talk to the government in peace is welcome to come to the Dussehra ground on Saturday,” the chief minister added.
The CM’s call for dialogue was welcomed by the Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangh (RKMS), the farmers body, which has been spearheading the ten-days long stir since June 1.
However, all farmers' organisations, including RKMS, which have been agitating for better support prices for farm produce, loan waiver and other demands across the state, have already said that the stir would end on the tenth day today.
“Not only us, but the representatives of all farmers bodies, including the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) and Aam Kisan Union (AKU) have accepted the CM’s invitation and hope a peaceful resolution to the impasse,” said RKMS spokesperson Sunil Gaur.
However, the opposition Congress dubbed the CM’s invite and politics of fast as drama.
“If he is so serious about talking with the farmers, why did he wait for nine long days and the deaths of six farmers in Mandsaur?” asked MP Congress president Arun Yadav.
Also, State Congress' chief spokesperson K K Mishra remarked that Chouhan should tell people whether his so-called fast is a "nautanki" (drama), an event or an act of repentance for his misdeeds that "set the state on fire".
"Though he is trying to send a message that he is doing Gandhi-giri (using a Gandhian way), it is absolutely not so. He neither sat at the foot of the statue of Gandhi nor did he garland the statue before launching his 'nautanki'," Mishra added.
"He should remember that (demon king) Ravana is burnt every year at the Dussehra Maidan," the Congress leader said.
Earlier, the leader of opposition in the state assembly Ajay Singh and the MP Congress chief Arun Yadav had demanded a special session of the assembly on the farmers issue.
The chief whip of the opposition party Ramniwas Rawat has already written a letter to the state governor on Thursday, requesting to convene the special session.
Meanwhile Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders slammed the BJP government saying that in BJP-ruled states, farmers were getting bullets instead of their rightful dues.
The death toll in the ongoing crisis rose to six yesterday, when a 32-year-old farmer, Ghanshyam Dhakad, who was brought by police from Bhaugarh (Mandsaur) to Indore’s MY Hospital on Thursday late night, died. On duty cops prevented Ghanshyam’s wife from attempting to end her life at the hospital.
Ghanshyam’s kin alleged that he was detained by police from Daloda-Sapra village during the farmers’ agitation in Bhaugarh, Mandsaur, on Thursday afternoon and was brutally beaten in custody.
“It was police beating that killed Ghanshyam,” they alleged.
Opposition Congress leaders and workers, including former MP from Dewas Sajjan Singh Verma, reached the hospital and supported allegations of custodial death. He also demanded a panel of doctors to conduct the autopsy of Ghanshyam and show him the video.
City SP (Sanyogitaganj-Indore) Pawan Mishra, who reached the hospital with his force confirmed over phone to the New Indian Express that Bhaugarh police had brought Ghanshyam Dhakad to MY Hospital in a critical state.
“When Ghanshyam was brought by Mandsaur police to the hospital at around 10.30 pm on Thursday, he was vomiting. He died at around 11.15 pm and only the autopsy will establish what actually happened” said Mishra.
In Mandsaur district, senior police officials remained tight-lipped over this recent development.
On June 6, five agitating farmers were previously killed in police firing in Bahi Chowpati of Mandsaur district.
Also yesterday, the curfew in Mandsaur and Pipliyamandi towns was relaxed from 10 am to 4 pm.
However, violence was reported from different spots on the Bhopal-Indore highway since 11.30 am in Sehore district.
Trouble started when over a 1000 farmers’ blocked the highway near Fanda village and pelted stones and burnt tyres. When police used force and fired tear gas shells to disperse the mob, they had first retreated and then set ablaze a private four-wheeler vehicle.
The mob subsequently moved to Fanda village and continued stone pelting on the police and paramilitary force personnel chasing them.
“Dozens of people indulging in violence have been detained and heavy police force has been deployed on the highway,” said SP (Bhopal North) Arvind Saxena.
Among those who were detained yesterday by MP cops had also included a farmer named Raju Rajput, who was at the forefront of the violent protests.
(With inputs from ANI, ENS and PTI)