Neemuch (Madhya Pradesh): Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday sought a comprehensive inquiry into the killing of five farmers here in police firing and sought "martyr" status for them.
Gandhi, who was arrested by Madhya Pradesh Police on the way to Mandsaur and subsequently released, said the party would aggressively raise the issues concerning farmers in Parliament and seek loan waiver for them.
He used different routes as well as modes of transport and changed his strategies in an effort to reach Mandsaur — the epicentre of farmers' agitation in Madhya Pradesh — as the state government denied him permission fearing the situation may worsen.
He flew from Delhi to Udaipur and entered Madhya Pradesh by car from Rajasthan in a cavalcade of Congress leaders and activists.
As he entered Neemuch, he saw a group of policemen near a toll plaza deployed to stop him. He immediately switched over to a motorcycle and gave them — as well as his own NSG personnel — the slip. A party activist drove the bike.
Congress leader Sachin Pilot also took a motorcycle and followed Gandhi. They took a narrow lane through Chinta Khera village to reach Mandsaur.
Interacting with farmers, who had come to the border with Rajasthan to meet him, Gandhi said police violated all norms in firing on farmers. He said there was no use of tear gas or water cannons. "There should be an inquiry. The farmers should be given the status of martyr," he said.
Gandhi said he had come only to meet farmers and members of the deceased's families. "Can't I go to Madhya Pradesh or Uttar Pradesh? I am not a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) man, does this mean I cannot go to these states," Gandhi said.
Gandhi dismissed the criticism of his visit by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which dubbed it as a "photo-opportunity". Had they allowed me to go, I would have met them and come back."
"The farmers in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and other states are crying on Thursday. We will put pressure on the central government and get the loans of farmers across the country waived off," he said, adding that farm loans were waived off in Uttar Pradesh due to pressure exerted by the party.
Farmers told Gandhi that some of the injured in police firing were serious.
"They are not allowing me to go there. They stopped me from entering Madhya Pradesh. They stopped me on the border. Actually, I didn't want to call you (the farmers) here. I wanted to go there, but they arrested me," Gandhi said.
He said farmers did not get the actual price of their crop and he would do all he can for them.
"When soldiers die on the border, they are given a lot of respect. But when a farmer dies, he is not given due respect. That's why today I am standing with you," he said.
Before being detained, Gandhi charged the Narendra Modi government with writing off the loans of rich industrialists to the tune of Rs 1,50,000 crore but not waiving the loans of poor farmers.
"He (Modi) can't waive farmers' loans, he can't give them (proper) rates. He can't give them bonus. He can't give them water. Kisan ko sirf goli de sakte hai (He can give only bullets to farmers)," Gandhi said.
Asked who was responsible for the farmers' plight, Gandhi said: "Both...Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan."
Farmers in Madhya Pradesh have been on strike since 1 June, demanding that their loans be scrapped and their produce be bought at a fair price.
Congress leaders slammed Madhya Pradesh government for arresting Gandhi. Party General Secretary KC Venugopal said that arrest of Rahul Gandhi and other party leaders revealed "political cowardliness of the Modi government".
"It reveals the inability of the ruling dispensation to face tough questions on farmers' distress," he said.
Party leader AK Antony said the Madhya Pradesh government not allowing Gandhi to visit Mandsaur was "anti-democratic, barbaric and against the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution."
Updated Date: Jun 08, 2017 23:01 PM