Five persons were killed on Tuesday as the farmers' agitation turned violent in Mandsaur district of Madhya Pradesh, prompting the authorities to clamp curfew in the trouble-hit area.
Some eyewitnesses alleged that the victims suffered bullet wounds, but Mandsaur district authorities denied that police fired on the protesters, who were on a rampage.
While the Congress called for state bandh on Wednesday, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan blamed the opposition party for instigating the violence.
Mandsaur collector S K Singh confirmed death of five persons and said a magisterial inquiry has been ordered. As tension prevailed, mobile internet service were suspended in Mandsaur, Ratlam and Neemuch districts since morning to check spread of rumours.
Singh also said that police categorically told him that they did not fire at the protesters.
The deceased were identified as Kanhaiyalal Patidar, Bablu Patidar, Chain Singh Patidar, Abhishek Patidar and Satynarayan. Abhishek and Satynarayan died en route to a hospital in Indore, police said.
Curfew has been imposed in Pipalya Mandi police station area of Mandsaur district where the incident took place, while prohibitory orders restricting movement under section 144 of CrPC have been imposed in rest of the district, the collector said.
"Police have told me that neither did they fire nor did they have any orders to fire," Singh added.
In-camera autopsy of bodies was going on and the cause of death will be known after it, the collector said, adding that families of the deceased will get financial aid.
According to eyewitnesses, protesting farmers torched vehicles and indulged in stone pelting in Parshvanath area under Pipaliya Mandi police station limits of the district.
The CM announced a financial help of Rs 10 lakh to the kin of the deceased.
"I request the farmers to be patient. Do not fall in the trap of anyone. The government stands with farmers. We will solve all problems through discussion," Chouhan tweeted while blaming Congress for the violence.
Farmers in western Madhya Pradesh are protesting since June one demanding higher minimum support prices among others.
In Ratlam, the district collector Ashok Bhargava imposed prohibitory orders under section 144 of CrPC following the violence in neighbouring Mandsaur district.
Ratlam superintendent of police Amit Singh announced a reward of Rs 10,000 each for information about absconding farmer leaders D P Dhakad, Rajesh Bharava, Bhagwati Patidar (said to be Congress members) and others who were allegedly involved in violence in the district on Sunday in which two police personnel had been injured.
Meanwhile, the state Congress and the Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangh have given a call for bandh on Wednesday across the state to protest the farmers' death in Mandsaur.
"We have called for a massive MP bandh tomorrow," state Congress chief Arun Yadav said.
The Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, Ajay Singh, demanded resignation of Chouhan, saying the incident of firing in Mandsaur is shameful for a chief minister who claims to be a farmer's son.
"All the claims of the chief minister have proved false so far. Now the government is using bullets to suppress farmers' voice. Chouhan should resign immediately," the Congress leader said.
The main opposition party also constituted a committee of MLAs "to investigate" the Mandsaur firing incident. Singh and the state Congress chief would visit Mandsaur on Wednesday.
Senior Congress leader and MP Jyotiraditya Scindia also condemned the incident. The BJP government dealt with the agitation through bullets instead of talks, he said.
"This is a black day in the history of the state. It is shameful that the state government is crushing farmers' agitation. Farmers' demands are genuine," Scindia added.
Trouble was reported from many parts of western Madhya Pradesh as farmers' stir continued for the sixth day on Tuesday.
In Indore, police used lathi charge following stone-pelting during a march by farmers.
A police officer said that people taking part in the march started throwing stones at the police near Devi Ahilyabai Fruits and Vegetable Market, which led to lathi-charge.
In Dhar, farmers blocked the Indore-Ahmedabad national highway for about three hours. Farmers also staged protests at Amjhera and Ghoda Chowpati in the city.
The shops in the local market remained closed all day in Neemuch city.
Meanwhile, Mahendra Patidar, president of MP Patidar Samaj, said they would cremate the bodies of victims who died in Mandsaur district today only in the presence of the chief minister.
Photograph: PTI Photo