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  India   All India  09 Jun 2017  Rahul Gandhi briefly held amid Madhya Pradesh farm stir

Rahul Gandhi briefly held amid Madhya Pradesh farm stir

THE ASIAN AGE WITH AGENCY INPUTS
Published : Jun 9, 2017, 1:06 am IST
Updated : Jun 9, 2017, 1:06 am IST

Mr Gandhi — forced to shout to reporters as the police led him away — blamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the farmers’ deaths.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has an argument with police personnel while on the way from Neemuch to Mandsaur. (Photo: PTI)
 Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has an argument with police personnel while on the way from Neemuch to Mandsaur. (Photo: PTI)

Bhopal/Mumbai/New Delhi: High political drama took the centrestage in western Madhya Pradesh on Thursday as the police briefly arrested Rahul Gandhi and top Congress leaders when they tried to go to Mandsaur where farmers’ protests have escalated and become violent after five agitators were killed in police firing two days ago.

The 46-year-old Congress vice-president ditched his car, walked and then rode pillion on a motorbike to avoid detection by local authorities, who had denied him permission to visit the volatile region.

He was arrested at Jiran in MP’s Neemuch district. Let off on bail, he was escorted by the police to the Rajasthan border where he met the family members of some of the victims who were killed on Tuesday while protesting for debt relief, better crop prices and pension benefits. He then headed to Udaipur in Rajasthan.

Mr Gandhi — forced to shout to reporters as the police led him away — blamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the farmers’ deaths.

As hundreds of policemen in riot gear patrolled the streets, the state government transferred the collector and the superintendent of police of Mandsaur on Thursday. The collectors of two other unrest-hit districts Ratlam and Neemuch have also been replaced.

Earlier in the day, Mr Gandhi — accompanied by Rajasthan Congress president Sachin Pilot and Madhya Pradesh party chief Arun Yadav — proceeded from Udaipur to Mandsaur that has been scorched by violent protests with several vehicles burnt and buildings torched.

The police had put barricades at Nayagaon in Neemuch bordering Rajasthan to stop him from entering Mandsaur, where curfew remained in force for the third consecutive day on Thursday.

He jumped the barricades but was pushed back across the border by a huge posse of security personnel.

Mr Gandhi however dodged the police and walked nearly 100 meters to enter Neemuch. He then rode pillion on a bike to go to Mandsaur. He was stopped and taken under preventive detention by the police. Later he and other Congress leaders were arrested and put in a local resthouse of a private company.

“PM Narendra Modi and MP chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan are to be blamed (for the killing of farmers in police firing). Country’s prime minister can waive Rs 1.50 crore worth of loans to the richest people of India, but can’t pay heed to the plight of farmers. He can only give bullets to them”, Mr Gandhi told reporters before being whisked away by cops.

The local administration had arranged telephonic talks between him and the family members of the victims of police firing. He however insisted on meeting them saying that he would not return to Delhi without talking to them in person. He relented when the police assured him of allowing him to meet them at the Rajasthan border.

Breaking his silence, Union agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh termed the agitation “unfortunate” and said those “politicising” the incident were not concerned about the community’s welfare. Union home minister Rajnath Singh said in Mumbai that some forces were instigating the agitation and the issue was under investigation. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said his government was open to a dialogue to iron out differences and again appealed for peace.

Farmers are reeling under successive droughts and a supply glut that has sent prices crashing. The violence is bad news for the BJP, which swept to power in MP 14 years ago. Ravaged by drought and farm suicides, Madhya Pradesh goes to the polls next year.

Spiraling protests in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh and neighbouring Maharashtra pose a challenge for PM Modi, who has promised to double farmers’ incomes over the next five years.

Tags: rahul gandhi, farmer protests, narendra modi, agitators
Location: India, Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal