The Madhya Pradesh government is struggling to restore calm after five farmers were shot in clashes yesterday in the central city of Mandsaur, about 325 km from the capital of Bhopal. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan used Twitter to appeal to farmers to end the violence that has marked the strike they began on June 1, demanding debt relief and better prices for their produce. Opposition parties including the Left and the Congress have said the deaths yesterday prove that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has no strategy to help farmers.
Here are the 10 latest developments in this big story:
- Chief Minister Chouhan, who has been in office since 2005, said on Twitter that he has been a farmer and understands their problems.
- But Mandsaur remains tense and a round-the-clock curfew is in place. Mobile internet services have been cut off and thousands of police in riot gear patrolled the streets of the Mandsaur district.
- Farmers said they plan to scale up their protests. "We will continue our protest until the government accepts our demands," said Sunil Gaur of the Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangh, a national union of farmers. "The government has complicated the situation by killing six innocent farmers."
- Yesterday, Chief Minister Chouhan blamed the Congress for inciting violence among farmers; Home Minister Bhupendra Singh denied that the police had fired at the farmers, which resulted in five deaths.
- The state's top human rights body has sought an explanation today from the administration.
- Organizers of yesterday's protests claimed that the police opened fire after farmers turned violent, throwing rocks at the police and setting vehicles on fire.
- Thousands of farmers in the drought-ravaged region are demanding that authorities increase the minimum price for their crops and forgive bank loans. Madhya Pradesh is one of several states that have suffered disappointing rains and crop failures in recent years.
- More than 1,600 farmers killed themselves in the state in 2016, according to official figures.
- Farmers in neighbouring Maharashtra state have held similar protests and have stopped supplies to urban areas, leading to a spike in the prices of vegetables and dairy products including in major cities like Delhi and Mumbai.
- The protests pose a challenge to the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which has promised to double farm income in the next two years.