Madhya Pradesh police on Sunday arrested -- and subsequently released -- 30 activists, including Medha Patkar, Yogendra Yadav and Swami Agnivesh, in Ratlam, while they were on their way to Mandsaur to meet families of farmers killed in police firing.
The activists were stopped by the police at the Dhodhar toll plaza in Ratlam district's Jaora town and detained in the circuit house there for about 30 minutes.
"They dispersed after they were released," City SP Deepak Kumar Shukla said.
The police told the activists, among them Jawaharlal Nehru University students' union president Mohit Kumar Pandey and representatives from farmer outfits, that their visit could disturb peace in Mandsaur, where prohibitory orders under CrPc Section 144 are in place, though curfew was lifted on Saturday.
"Our arrest is against the law as no written order was shown to us," Yadav, of the political outfit Swaraj India, told reporters after the arrest.
He stressed the group had wanted to meet the families in Mandsaur 'peacefully' and wanted to present them with a 'letter of tribute' and soil brought from different parts of the country.
"But we were not allowed to go to Mandsaur," he said.
On being stopped from entering neigbouring Mandsaur, the activists sat on a protest on the Mhow-Neemuch Highway, disrupting traffic, the police said.
The activists raised slogans against the government and in support of farmers for about an hour.
The police said the activists were arrested when they insisted on being allowed to enter Mandsaur.
They were arrested under CrPC section 151 (arrest to prevent the commission of cognisable offences), Jaora SDM R P Verma said.
Yadav also demanded that the government waive farmers' loans and give them higher prices for agriculture produce.
He called for a probe into the death of six people who had been killed in the stir. Five died in police firing, and one was allegedly beaten to death.
Patkar said she could not understand how their presence in Mandsaur could disturb the situation.
"We are not going there for any protest or demonstration, we just wanted to meet the deceased farmers' families," she said.
Heavy police force and water cannons were deployed and barricades placed, hours before the activists reached the Dhodhar toll plaza.
The Mandsaur-Neemuch region, about 300 km from state capital Bhopal, became the nerve centre of the storm of farmer distress, as protests over low prices for crops and heavy farm debts started on June 1 and snowballed into a widespread agitation.
In Mandsaur, curfew was imposed after the five farmers were killed in two incidents of police firing during the protest on June 6.
Hardik Patel may leave for Mandsaur on Tuesday
Patidar quota stir leader Hardik Patel will arrive in Udaipur on Monday and is likely to leave for Mandsaur with his supporters the following day.
"Patel will be reaching Udaipur via road from Ahmedabad on Monday evening and will take part in a community feast in Namri panchayat. We had asked the police to allow him to address a gathering but it was not permitted," said Gehrilal Dangi, district president of Patel Navnirman Sena.
He has plans to leave for Mandsaur, but whether the administration allows it is uncertain, Dangi added.
He said that the Patidar community in Gujarat and Rajasthan stands in support of the Madhya Pradesh farmers.
"Patel desires to meet the agitating cultivators during his visit," Dangi said.
Additional SP Brijesh Kumar Soni said: "We have information that Hardik Patel will be in Udaipur on June 12 and take part in a community gathering."
Hardik, who had spent six months of exile in Udaipur after a Gujarat High Court order, had returned to his hometown in January this year. He was staying at a former Congress MLA's house during this period.
He was released from jail in Gujarat after nine months in confinement in July last year.