Saturday saw Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan launch an indefinite fast at Bhopal’s Dussehra Maidan for ‘restoration of peace’ in the state in the midst of a raging farmers’ agitation.
Farmers’ bodies, which had declared that the stir would end on June 10, seemed unimpressed. They pointed out that Chouhan had made his ‘fast for farmers’ an annual event as long as UPA was in power at the Centre.
He sat on fast, they said, in 2011, 2012 and 2013, complaining of step motherly treatment meted out to farmers in Madhya Pradesh by the Centre. But once the BJP Government led by Modi was formed in 2014, Chouhan’s annual ritual abruptly stopped.
Chouhan is facing criticism from within the BJP as well after two senior leaders, Babulal Gaur and Kailash Vijayvargiya, criticised the mishandling of the farmers’unrest and described the demands to be justified. This ran counter to Chouhan’s official line that the agitation was not by farmers but by politically motivated opponents including Congress workers and that they were being instigated.
The farmers’ stir, which began on June 1, turned violent after five farmers (nine according to farmers’ bodies) were killed at Mandsaur in police firing. The agitation had spread to eight more districts which witnessed vandalism and violence.
While Chouhan offered a dialogue with farmers, the opposition Congress accused him of theatrics and wondered why he had refused to hold talks with the farmers earlier. “This is all Nautanki (Drama)” said K.K. Mishra of the Congress.
While Chouhan reiterated that miscreants courting ‘anarchy’ in the state would not be spared, he was mocked on social media for his ‘five star fast’ after allowing the killing of farmers.
Journalist Shirish Khare claimed on his Facebook wall that 11 thousand farmers had committed suicide in Madhya Pradesh so far. He also claimed that over 50,000 farmers in the state had been jailed for not paying electricity dues.