Continuing on the warpath, farmers on Wednesday resorted to violence and arson in western Madhya Pradesh despite prohibitory measures, posing a major challenge for Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and providing a rallying point for the opposition parties.
In view of the volatile situation, the Centre rushed 1,100 personnel of anti-riot Rapid Action Force to the violence-hit state where the farmers have been agitating since the last seven days for loan waiver and better crop prices.
A day after five farmers were killed and six injured in clashes between the protesters and the police in Mandsaur, a clearly rattled Chouhan government sought to cool the tempers by announcing certain measures, including a loan settlement scheme for those cultivators who had defaulted on repayment of farm loan borrowed by them earlier.
The scheme will cover around six lakh farmers, with accumulated dues of Rs 6000 crore, according to government.
The government also announced setting up of a commission for agricultural costs and marketing to ensure that farmers get benefited by market price for their produce.
The government is also contemplating a formula wherein it may waive interest on crop loans.
Chouhan while condoling the death of five farmers, announced a compensation of Rs 1 crore each for their next of kin and a government job for their family members.
Getting a rallying point, the parties like the Congress, the Left and the Janata Dal-United attacked the Bharatiya Janata Party government of Madhya Pradesh. The Congress party demanded Chouhan's resignation.
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and JD-U leader Sharad Yadav are expected to visit Mandsaur on Thursday to meet the kin of those killed in the violence.
Mandsaur district, the epicentre of the agitation, remained on the boil on Wednesday and the violent protests spread to other districts like Dewas, Neemuch, Ujjain, Dhar and Khargone.
Curfew was in place in Pipaliya Mandi area and Mandsaur town and prohibitory orders under section 144 of CrPC (prohibiting assembly of more than four persons at a place) were in vogue in the rest of the district, Inspector General of Police (Ujjain range) V Madhukumar said.
Despite the prohibitory measures in Mandsaur district, the protesters torched shops in Suasara town and a warehouse in Badi Choupati area besides blocking the Mhow-Neemuch highway for hours, police said.
A police Inspector Shyambabu Sharma allegedly suffered head injuries in stone-pelting by a mob at Guratiya Pratap square in Mandsaur district, the police said.
Mandsaur Collector SK Singh was heckled by the farmers when he went to pacify them and lift a road blockade at Berheda Pant area.
There were unconfirmed reports about three rounds being fired at Pipaliya Mandi area.
In Dewas district, the farmers allegedly pelted stones and torched four passenger buses running between Indore- Bhopal at Newari Fata area, the police said. The passengers in these buses alighted and ran to safety.
Eight more vehicles were torched at Newari Fata area in Dewas, the police added.
Vehicles parked at Hat Pipaliya police station were also torched by a mob in Dewas.
Congressmen stopped a train in Dewas during the protest.
However, Dewas ASP Anil Patidar claimed that situation in his district was under control. He said additional police force has been called to assist the law-enforcers.
The people who torched 12 vehicles including four buses are being identified and they will be arrested, he added.
In Neemuch district, adjoining district of Mandsaur, a police outpost was torched in Harkiya Khal Phanta area.
In Ujjain district, eight to ten policemen, including Mahal Kal police station Inspector Ajeet Tiwari, were injured in stone-pelting by the protesters.
A bandh called by the Congress evoked mixed response in Indore where sporadic incidents were reported from Sanwer and Simrol areas, with protestors forcefully throwing vegetables and fruits and emptying the milk containers on the roads.
In Khargone district, Bharatiya Kisan Sangh workers led by district joint secretary Gopal Patidar burnt the effigy of state's home minister Bhupendra Singh in protest against Tuesday's Mandsaur alleged police firing on farmers. They also submitted a memorandum to the district authorities demanding criminal against the police personnel involved in the firing.
In Sehore district, the protesters pelted stones at the vehicle of additional collector of Barwani district Jayendra Kumar. The Indore-Bhopal highway was blocked at Ashta are and Sehore town.
Violence was reported from Dhar, Khargone, and others places of western MP. The other parts of MP remained calm.