BHOPAL: Amid raging farmers' protest in Madhya Pradesh, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has started his indefinite fast and will continue "until peace is restored". The Chief Minister is sitting at Bhopal's Dussehra Maidan, where people can discuss their problems with him. He has assured them of all help. He is also believed to be considering waiving interest on farm loans, which could benefit over six lakh farmers at a cost of around 2,000 crore to the taxpayer. He made an emotional appeal to farmers, saying he has been a farmer and understands their problems.
"Sandesh dena chahte hain aapke dukh mein sahbhagi hain, maidan mein bhaithe hain, aaiye charcha ke liye (We are with you and feel for you. We are sitting on the ground, please come and discuss your problems with us)," Madhya Pradesh minister N Mishra told news agency ANI.
Farmers' protests started last week in Mandsaur over demand for better prices for their produce and debt relief. The protesting farmers blocked roads, vandalised property and set vehicles on fire on Tuesday. The police opened fire to control the situation.
The situation escalated when five farmers died on the spot and another farmer, who was allegedly detained by police died yesterday at a hospital. Those responsible would be punished, Mr Chouhan said.
However, the opposition has called it a "drama" and criticised his "hypocrisy".
Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Ajay Singh told news agency IANS, "While the farmers in the state are on the roads with their demands, the Chief Minister has got down to this nautanki (drama). He will now spend crores of rupees in this Kejriwal-like drama."
"The truth is that Chouhan is trying to divert the public's attention from the core issue and is hence using all these cheap tricks," added the Congress leader.
Communist Party of India-Marxist State Secretary Badal Saroj also told IANS, "This is nothing but hypocrisy."
Abhishek Patidar, a farmer, had joined the protests on Tuesday at Mandsaur's Piplya Mandi. As the protests turned violent he was shot twice. His family which is already under debt burden, now has to deal with the loss of a loved one.
Angry farmers want action against police officers who shot at the farmers and added that the "Rs. 1 crore compensation promised by the government won't bring back their loved ones".