Bhopal/Indore/Mandsaur: The violence that has unfolded in Madhya Pradesh since Monday, following the death of six farmers, was in the making for a long time. Plans for protests starting from June 1, were made public by farmers from May 22. But police and state administration chose to ignore the brewing anger.
On May 2 in Shivpuri, agitated farmers had locked down a bank and shut its employees inside for not providing money to them. Police had to be called in to control the situation.
Farmers started protests across Madhya Pradesh on June 1 and on the very next day an angry mob had begun setting public property on fire. So ill-prepared was the state government that the first batch of paramilitary forces was dispatched to the riot -ffected areas only on Tuesday.
Internet connectivity has been snapped at several places and curfew has been imposed in two districts. In these circumstances, it is difficult to even estimate the full extent of the ongoing violence.
Meanwhile, a chronological list of the farmers’ protests shows how Shivraj Singh Chauhan government sat as a mute spectator till things went out of control:
June 1 - Affected area – Shajapur
Farmers stop all vehicles carrying milk and vegetables. They make a spectacle of draining down milk containers and throwing vegetables on the road. They go on to vandalize several buses. The administration doesn’t take notice.
One farmer News18 spoke to in Mandsaur on Monday, said, “Nobody listens to us till we protest silently. When we begin to shake the system, that’s when people realise our plight.”
June 2 - Affected areas — Dhar, Bhopal, Indore, Ujjain, Mhow
Farmers clashed with traders in Dhar district’s Sardarpur town. In these clashes, the traders managed to drag the farmers out of the town, but not before the farmers damaged several shops. The traders, in turn, set ablaze half a dozen motorcycles left behind by farmers.
Clashes between police and farmers are reported from Indore. Farmers reported beat a police constable. Meanwhile the prices of milk and vegetables sky-rockets. Black-marketing is rife. Milk sold at Rs 80-100 per litre.
Protests become more aggressive in the state capital Bhopal, Ujjain and Mhow as well.
June 3 - Affected areas — Ratlam, Nagda, Unhel, Harda, Mansaud, Indore
Things go out of control in Indore. Mobs set fire to several public vehicles in Bijalpur. Clashes now being reported from Ratlam as well, where police fire teargas shells.
Protests now reach rural areas like Ujjain’s Nagda and Unhel. Arson and vandalism reported from these spots.
June 4 - Affected areas — Seehor, Mandsaur, Ujjain, Ratlam, Indore
RSS-backed Bharatiya Kisan Sangh calls off protest, claiming that the government has accepted all their demands.
“We don’t support the sort of hooliganism that was on display in the state on Monday. We don’t support wasting vegetables and milk and being aggressive. Since the government has met all our demands, we are not going to participate in any stir,” BKS state secretary Manmohan Vyas said.
At 6:08 pm Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan tweets “MP government sympathises with farmer issues and will continue to work for farmers. I am happy that my farmer brothers have called off the protests.”
News outlets report that farmer agitation is called off.
But the protests get more violent. Rioters set fire to three police vehicles in Ratlam. In Seehor district, close to Bhopal angry farmers pelt stones at police. A total of 12 police personnel are injured. Police retaliate with tear-gas shells and lathi-charge. More aggressive protests are reported from Khandwa, Khargon, Dewas, Shajapur and Mandsaur.
Meanwhile, milk continues to be poured down drains in Misrod.
June 5 - Affected areas — Indore, Neemuch, Pipliya Mandi, Mandsaur, Ratlam
The Chief Minister feels the heat of rapidly expanding violent protests. Announces a corpus of Rs 1,000 crore new debt relief scheme.
Violent protests continue in Indore, Neemuch and Mandsaur. In Mandsaur, protesters damage railway property, try to damage railway tracks. In Ratlam protestors halt railway traffic. Clashes between rioters and police in Neemuch result in several getting injured. Police fire teargas shells and lathi-charge protestors.
Protestors march down to Pipliya Mandi and force traders to shut their shops. Both sides engage in violent scuffles. Shops of local traders are vandalised. Some farmers are beaten up, one of who suffers a grievous head injury.
June 6 - Affected areas — Mandsaur, Neemuch, Dalauda, Ratlam, Indore, Pipliya Mandi, Mhow
On the sixth day of protest, six protestors die of bullet injuries. Farmers claim police forces shot them dead, but police deny having shot to kill them.
Violent protests had continued in Mandsaur through the night. According to earliest reports, protestors tried to damage a railway barrier, causing railway traffic between Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan to come to a halt. Also halt road traffic.
Curfew is imposed in Mandsaur and Pipliya Mandi. Rioters set six trucks afire. The state Home Minister Bhupendra Singh denies that those who have died were farmers. Warns stern action against anti-social elements posing as farmers.
“There were two incidents at Pipalia. In one of the incidents police had to fire in self-defence when a mob gheraoed the police station. In the other incident, the police fired when there was firing from the mob,” the state Home Minister tells media.
Police officers realise that many of incidents of arson and looting are being directed from WhatsApp groups. They shut down Internet in several districts. Protestors torch trucks on Neemuch-Mhow highway.
All opposition leaders, from Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, to Left’s Sitaram Yechury, to regional party leaders like SP president Akhilesh Yadav, RJD president Lalu Prasad Yadav and Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee react strongly to the killing of farmers.
Meanwhile, MP Chief Minister orders judicial inquiry into the incident. He also announces a compensation of Rs 10 lakh for the kin of the deceased. A few hours later he increases the compensation to Rs 1 crore each, along with a government job to the next kin of the deceased.
June 7 - Affected areas - Barkheda, Sehore, Neemuch, Dewas, Ratlam, Pipliya Mandi, Ratlam, Bhopal, Indore, Ujjain
The kin of the deceased refuse to cremate the bodies, keeping them out, on display, at Barkheda highway. It incenses more locals who turn out for protests and block the highway. Dozens of vehicles are torched on this highway and in other areas like Ratlam and Dewas.
Rioting and arson was reported in several districts of Madhya Pradesh. Mobs set a factory, banks, buses, petrol pumps and police vehicles and chowkis on fire, and disrupt rail and road traffic. They heckled a district collector and an SP-rank police officer.
Several videos of bus passengers terrified by violent mobs and charred public vehicles do rounds on social media.
Police reaches at sites of violence hours later, to avoid confrontation with the protestors.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi holds an emergency meeting, which is attended by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, home minister Rajnath Singh, finance minister Arun Jaitley and road transport minister Nitin Gadkari.
By late afternoon, Centre decides to rush 1100 riot control personnel to Mandsaur. Madhya Pradesh home ministry writes to the Union home ministry, asking for additional forces in Neemuch, Mandsaur, Dewas and Ujjain.
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi declares that he will visit Mansaud to meet families of deceased on Thursday.
BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayavargiya claims the ongoing violence is a conspiracy hatched by Congress, announces that his party “will release videos exposing how congress leaders are instigating the farmers”.