A farmer set himself ablaze in Anuppur district on Saturday to protest the acquisition of his land by the government, triggering a clash between farmers and police that left eight people, including half-a-dozen policemen, injured.
The incident occurred in Jatahari town of Anuppur, 656 km east of state capital Bhopal, when officials and policemen went to 45-year-old farmer Anandram Rathore’s land early on Saturday morning to begin laying a railway line.
Police said Rathore, 45, poured kerosene and set himself on fire. He sustained serious injuries and was sent to Jabalpur for treatment. Irate local residents then attacked policemen, who fired in the air to disperse them. One person was injured in the firing.
Sources said Rathore's land was acquired by the government along with land belonging to other people of the area and given to a private thermal power company for building a railway line leading to a power plant.
But Rathore was unhappy with the compensation given by the government for his land. He had been protesting for almost a year.
The incident comes at a time when the Union government is seeking to water down certain provisions of the land acquisition law to boost infrastructure and big-ticket projects across the country. This has become a sensitive issue for farmers, whose land is their only source of income. Agriculture contributes 14% to India’s economy and 600 million people depend on farming for their livelihood.
When Rathore’s family protested on Saturday, policemen detained four members, including his father Ram Milan Rathore, and took them to a police station. Following this, Rathore attempted self-immolation. Policemen doused the fire and rushed him to a nearby hospital, from where he was sent to Jabalpur medical college.
Irked by the incident, local residents started pelting stones at policemen and officials. Around half-a-dozen policemen, including a sub-divisional officer of police, sustained injuries and were admitted to the district hospital.
Police fired in the air after local residents set a backhoe or excavating machine on fire and damaged some police vehicles. A bullet hit Alpesh Kushwaha, who too was sent to Jabalpur medical college.
“The land of other farmers has also been acquired but some of them are protesting and Anandram is one of them. Because of the protest, the construction of the railway line has stopped. The police force was sent to the spot to restart the work," said Anuppur superintendent of police Nimish Agrawal.
Agrawal said Rathore’s family members were detained because they were protesting. They were taken to the police station to maintain peace, he said. Some protestors were detained and a search has been launched for others, he added. Action will be taken against those who obstructed public servants from discharging their duties, Agrawal said.