Speaking from an undisclosed place in Madhya Pradesh on Thursday, farmers’ leader Shiv Kumar accused the CRPF of having shot farmers at Mandsaur without any provocation. He alleged that eight farmers, and not six, were killed in the firing and the bullets hit the farmers either on the chest or on their back. “If the idea was to disperse a crowd, they would have opened fire in the air or shot farmers on their lower limbs,” fumed Shiv Kumar.
Madhya Pradesh Government had initially denied reports of police firing. But 48 hours after the incident, in a U-turn, it admitted to police firing. With Shiv Kumar’s first-person account of the CRPF firing at farmers, the issue is likely to become more complicated.
If the claim is found to be correct then it would explain why reports of police firing were initially denied. And if it is established that the CRPF opened fire without any magisterial sanction, it would raise questions on both Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) followed by the CRPF as well as that of discipline.
“We were protesting in Pipaliyamandi for five days but nobody paid any heed. Meanwhile some minor scuffles broke out between farmers and traders. When we went to lodge a complaint, police misbehaved with us and then they called the CRPF. The para-military forces spoke to us for a few minutes and then suddenly opened fire…” he claimed.
Asked why farmers’ agitation has been rocking BJP ruled states and whether the strike has been spontaneous, he claimed that farmers had met in Delhi in January and formed the Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh, an umbrella organisation of 62 farmers’ organisations. Subsequent meetings were held in Bhopal and Moradabad.
Denying reports that he is absconding, the farmers’ leader told NH that he was old enough to know what he is doing. “This is only the Quarter Final,” he warned, “ the final will be held in January”, he added. In the ‘semi-final’ in August, he added, farmers would be putting up blockades on national highways.”
Asked if the agitation was politically motivated, he sarcastically quipped, “ We were not demanding the exchequer of the Government.” Farmers, he said, were demanding that onions be bought by the Government at ₹1500 a quintal and farmers be paid in cash. Following bumper crops of tomatoes and potatoes this year, farmers wanted the Government to fix reasonable rates. Besides the short-term demands, farmers wanted the Government to ensure pension for farmers above the age of 55.
Responding to reports that he is a former RSS activist, Shiv Kumar said he was never with the RSS but had been associated with the RSS affiliated Bharatiya Kisan Sangh. But BKS, he said, functioned more as an agent of the BJP Government than as a farmers’ outfit. That is why he left, he explained.
“Wherever there is a BJP government, it works for corporate bodies; policies are framed to hurt farmers and workers and enable corporate bodies, traders and moneylenders to make money,” he alleged.
Threatening to intensify the stir, he said that farmers’ leaders would be meeting in Delhi in June and will block highways in August. “And if the Government fails to address our concerns, we will march to Delhi next year,” he added.