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Four days on, Mandsaur victims’ relatives still in shock over police firing

All the five victims of the Mandsaur shooting were Patidars – members of a community that’s wealthy, landed and devoted to the ruling BJP.

bhopal Updated: Jun 09, 2017 21:02 IST
Punya Priya Mitra
Punya Priya Mitra
Hindustan Times, Mandsaur
Mandsaur,Farmers agitation,Patidars
Police personnel patrol a stretch of the Indore-Bhopal highway frequented by protesters on Friday.(PTI photo)

“My brother died in my arms, and there was nothing I could do about it.”

Madhusudan Patidar (22) has tears in his eyes as he recalls the horror of seeing his brother, 17-year-old Abhishek, shot down in Mandsaur on June 5. They had gone together to put forth their demands before the administration that fateful day, but only Madhusudan was left standing when the dust settled.

“Abhishek was shot twice, the first time in his stomach. He turned towards me and said, ‘Bhaiya, I have been shot’, and that was when another bullet pierced his back. We took him to Pipliyamandi hospital, but that was of no use. He was gone,” says Madhusudan. “Abhishek wanted to become a doctor… he was everybody’s little darling.”

Many farmers present at the site allege that the police issued no announcement or warning shot before opening fire. “Do you think we would have just stood there to get shot?” asks Madhusudan, bewildered. “Nobody expected that. To think that our chief minister calls himself a friend of the farmer!”

Incidentally, all the five victims of the Mandsaur shooting were Patidars – members of a community that’s wealthy, landed and devoted to the ruling BJP. Things, however, haven’t been looking up for the last few years. While farm produce doesn’t fetch as much in the market, input costs have increased almost in tandem with the reduction in subsidies.

“Whenever we have a bumper crop, the prices come crashing down,” says farmer leader Mahesh Patidar, referring to the time when onions were being sold for 50 paise per kilo last year. Many frustrated agriculturists preferred throwing their crop away in protest.

Villagers stage a chakka jam on the Mhow-Neemuch highway with the body of Abhishek Patidar, who was killed in police firing, in Mandsaur on Wednesday. ( Mujeeb Faruqui/ HT Photo )

It was for this very reason that the farmers decided to raise a collective demand for a minimum support price. The agitation turned unruly, and police firing followed.

Bablu Patidar (22) was another casualty of that dreaded day. “We had married Bablu off six months ago, and he was only getting settled into his family life. We took him to the protest with us, and now I feel both guilty and angry. How do I face his wife?” asks Mohanlal, his elder brother.

Radheshyam, his uncle, is equally furious. “I am angry at the chief minister. All he does is make false promises and shed crocodile tears,” he fumes.

The family of 25-year-old Satyanarayan relates a similar story. “Who knew he was heading to his death that day? We were three siblings, and now we’re just two,” bemoans Kanhaiyalal Patidar, his brother.

All of them met Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday. “I hope his visit forces the government to help us,” says Kanhaiyalal, recalling how the politician became emotional while hearing their stories. “I was touched by his attitude.”

However, not all agitators approve of the violence that has engulfed the state. Kanhaiyalal is especially scornful of an incident where agitating farmers set a passenger bus afire in Dewas. “They may be angry,” says he. “But it is ruining our cause.”

First Published: Jun 09, 2017 20:53 IST