Rahul Gandhi briefly arrested en route to Mandsaur
Rahul Gandhi rode pillion on a motorcycle on his way to the violence-hit district of Mandsaur in Madhya Pradesh. Photograph: (ANI)
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, who was on his way to violence-hit Mandsaur in Madhya Pradesh, was briefly arrested by the police from Madhya Pradesh's Neemuch and subsequently released.
The Congress president sought a comprehensive inquiry into the killing of five farmers here in police firing and demanded "martyr" status for them.
He said the party would aggressively raise the issues concerning farmers in parliament and seek loan waiver for them.
He was on his way to meet the families of those who were killed in police firing in Mandsaur on Tuesday.
According to ANI, he spoke with the family members of the farmers who were killed on phone.
In an attempt to evade the heavy police presence to stop his entry into the violence-hit district, he rode pillion on a motorcycle. The incident is reminiscent of the 2011 Bhatta Parsaul agitation in Uttar Pradesh when Rahul Gandhi sneaked into the village riding pillion on the motorcycle of a local municipality member.
Madhya Pradesh home minister, Bhupendra Singh, accused Rahul Gandhi of indulging in politics.
"He (Rahul Gandhi) has been detained. What was the emergency to go there now? He only wants to do politics," the home minister tweeted earlier.
Rahul Gandhi said that the BJP-led Rajasthan and the Madhya Pradesh governments are preventing him from entering Madhya Pradesh and meeting the families of the farmers killed.
What law of the land says that it is illegal to stand in solidarity with farmers who were killed simply for demanding what is their right?— Office of RG (@OfficeOfRG) June 8, 2017
He was accompanied by senior Congress leaders including Kamal Nath, who is touted to become the next chief of the state Congress.
Earlier, he arrived at the Udaipur airport in Rajasthan from where he embarked on a road journey to visit the violence-hit district of Mandsaur to meet families of those killed in Tuesday's violence.
Ahead of his visit to Mandsaur, violence again flared up as a toll plaza was vandalised and Rs 8-10 lakh were looted.
Meanwhile, Madhya Pradesh home minister Bhupendra Singh said that the five farmers, who were killed on Tuesday, died because of police firing.
Farmers in Mandsaur are on a protest demanding better prices for their produce and a farm loan waiver.
On Tuesday, five farmers were shot by police after which the protests intensified.
Protesters set on fire vehicles on Wednesday even as the authorities had clamped a round-the-clock curfew.
Protests were also reported from Ujjain, Neemuch and Dewas.
The Indian government has decided to deploy five more battalions of the paramilitary force in Madhya Pradesh's Mandsaur district, ANI reported. The Centre had already sent six battalions to the area.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has accused the Congress of provoking violence in the state.
Speaking to ANI, BJP leader GVL Narsimha Rao said, "This government had taken a series of decision towards the farmers and their demands. The Congress still cannot stand the success of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is the state. The Congress is using this agitation of the farmers for themselves to provoke violence from within and giving their party a violent colour."
BJP leader and former minister Kailash Vijayvargiya stated that Congress needs to be blamed as they are grabbing focus in this violence.
"Madhya Pradesh is a very peaceful place and will continue to be so. The BJP has always done well for the farmers and have also paid heed to all their demands. We are trying our best to curb the violence and also will resort to all their demands. The whole reason behind this situation is 'Congress' who needs to be blamed as they are grabbing focus in this violence. The people in that village are smarter than Rahul and would also know his plan behind his visit," Vijayvargiya told ANI.
The chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, announced a compensation of Rs 1 crore for the families of the deceased and Rs 5 lakh for those who have been injured.
The chief minister also urged the farmers to maintain calm.
The strike that began on June 01 in the big western state of Maharashtra, with farmers dumping produce and milk on the streets to demand billions of dollars in debt forgiveness and better prices for their produce, soon spread to Madhya Pradesh (Reuters)
(WION with inputs from agencies)