The Bhopal Police on Saturday lobbed tear gas shells, fired water cannons and even resorted to the use of ‘brute’ force to disperse a protest by the Congress in support of farmers who are up in arms over the Centre’s three contentious farm laws. The Congress contingent, which included former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath, senior leader Digvijaya Singh, former assembly speaker NP Prajapati among others, was marching towards the Raj Bhavan in Bhopal when the police blocked them.
The Congress leaders, workers and farmers gathered at Jawahar Chowk and as the procession approached Roshanpura square close to Raj Bhavan, the protesters broke through the barricading put up by police.
According to the police, the workers, who also included women, pelted stones on security personnel, which prompted them ‘to use mild force to disperse the agitators’.
As the demonstrators did not budge, the police used water cannons to disperse the crowd and lobbed tear gas shells at them.
Nath, Digvijaya Singh, MLAs Jaivardhan Singh, Kunal Chaudhary and about 20 others were arrested and later released on bail.
“The Centre has approved draconian laws for the farm sector,” alleged Nath before the protest, adding that he has personally fought for Minimum Support Price (MSP) in the past.
“Do the farmers protesting in Delhi have no understanding of this sector,” he asked saying that “corporates will take over the mandis once these agri laws are implemented”.
“If this happens, farmers will end up being bonded labourer to the corporates,” added the MPCC chief.
The grand old party also affirmed that it would persist with the demonstration unless the Centre takes a call on the new agri laws.
MLA Lakshman Singh claimed that the Centre’s offer to temporarily stay the implementation of the laws was a “partial win for the agitating farmers”.
Later, the MPCC chief slammed the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government for using brute force on Congressmen and farmers who were agitating ‘peacefully’ in the city. “We won’t be cowed down with such atrocities and the struggle will continue,” added Nath.
The Congress also claimed that many party workers were injured in the police action. It sent out pictures of wounded men and women to media outlets.
In wake of the protest, Raj Bhavan had been kept under three-layered security with police using heavy barricading to foil any attempt to stage a gherao of the Governor House. All roads leading to Raj Bhavan were fortified with heavy police force and deployment of water cannons.
The MP Congress had recently organised a Khat Panchayat in Morena district and formally extended support to the farmers’ agitation seeking a rollback of new agri marketing laws from Centre.