Probe panel gives police, CRPF clean chit in Mandsaur firing
The Justice JK Jain commission has given a clean chit to police and CRPF personnel allegedly involved in firing at agitating farmers in Mandsaur last year, officials familiar with the development said on Tuesday.
Five people were killed in police firing on June 6, 2017, at the peak of the farmers’ agitation in Madhya Pradesh. Another protester also died in a police lathi-charge at Daloda, located about 20 km away.
The report, which was delayed by nine months, stated that police firing had become necessary for the purposes of self-preservation and mob dispersal during the violent farmer agitation. It did not place any blame on then collector Swatantra Kumar Singh or superintendent of police OP Tripathi either, only noting that the information network of the police and state administration was “very weak”. None of the farmers’ demands – loan waiver or higher price for agricultural produce – could be met at the district level, the commission reasoned.
According to the report, the first incident of police firing occurred at Bahi Pasharvanath in Pipliyamandi, where the mob surrounded eight CRPF men and began pelting them with stones. They then caught hold of two personnel, Vivek Mishra and Udai Prasad, and began beating them while trying to snatch their rifles. Three other constables who came to their rescue met with a similar fate. Repeated warnings issued by the remaining CRPF personnel went in vain. Finally, shorn of all choices, they opened fire – killing two protesters and injuring three others.
The probe panel, however, said it found no evidence supporting the security personnel’s claim that the mob tried to set the CRPF constables on fire.
The report went on to say that an enraged mob of around 1,500 to 2,000 people then proceeded to the nearby Pipliyamandi police station. They surrounded the building and threatened to burn it down after killing all the policemen there. Tear gas shells and a lathi-charge failed to quell the agitators, who entered the police station and began wrecking the computers. Faced with no choice, the police personnel resorted to firing – killing three and injuring three others.
However, Justice Jain noted that he did not find any evidence to support the claim that the mob was armed with guns, and had fired at the police.
Senior lawyer Anand Mohan Mathur, who represented the victims’ families, slammed the report. “I am absolutely unsatisfied with the report. We were not given an opportunity to expose the various manipulations that took place at the time. I was not even allowed to cross-examine Anil Thakur, the then thana in-charge,” he said.
The Congress said the report exposed the anti-farmer bias of the BJP government. “If neither the police nor the CRPF are guilty, who is responsible for these deaths?” it asked in a statement.
State Congress president Kamal Nath termed the report as an “attempt to save the guilty”, and said that the prospect of farmers getting justice was getting dimmer by the day.
The farmers also expressed dismay over the report. “We no longer have faith in the system. We have been waiting for justice for a year now, but this report has shattered us,” said Sandeep, who lost his brother – Abhishek Patidar – to the incident.
However, state home secretary Malay Shrivastava said he was in no position to comment on the document. “There are many things mentioned in the report, and we are examining all the aspects,” he added.