Local Congress leaders who backed the agitation say they will approach the human rights commission

Anupam Pateriya
Hindustan Times, Bhopal/Sagar
Farmers who were made to take off their clothes, at a police station in Tikamgarh.
Farmers who were made to take off their clothes, at a police station in Tikamgarh.(HT photo)

Police in a Madhya Pradesh town allegedly rounded up a group of farmers and forced them to disrobe after a protest demonstration, according to leaders of the Congress backing the agitation, who have decided to approach the country’s human rights watchdog.

Dozens of farmers gathered in front of the collectorate in Bundelkhand’s Tikamgarh on Tuesday afternoon to present a list of demands to the district administration. The protest turned aggressive, prompting police to use teargas, water cannons and sticks on the people to disperse them.

Bundelkhand is one of the most distressed farm regions in Madhya Pradesh, which saw violent protests in June over the issue of loan waivers. Five farmers were killed in police firing at the time.

Local Congress leader Yadvendra Singh said the protesters became angry after the district collector did not meet them.

“Due to this protesters started losing their cool. The police used force and between 25 to 30 farmers were injured. When I reached home, I received information that around 30-40 farmers have been detained by police at Dehat police station. I went there and found they had been beaten up. They were made to sit just in their underwear,” Singh said.

“ It is a clear violation of human rights and I will file a complaint with video and photos to NHRC and State Human Rights Commission. Tomorrow we have called for Tikamgarh bandh on this issue”, he said on Tuesday.

The protest was led by leader of opposition in the state assembly Ajay Singh.

Tikamgarh superintendent of police Kumar Prateek told HT that force was used after the crowd started throwing rocks. He said eight cops and one protester were injured in the scuffle.

He said he was unaware of the protesters being made to strip and said police were only interrogating the detainees.

Photographs provided to HT showed the men inside the police station only in their underwear.

They were freed after Yadvendra Singh reached the police station.

Falling yield, mounting debt and increasingly costly raw materials are seen as factors pushing farmers in several parts of the country to commit suicide.

Farmers in Madhya Pradesh have demanded the government make arrangements to procure crops on time or intervened to ensure a reasonable price.

Between February 2016 and mid-February 2017, 1,982 farmers and farm labourers reportedly committed suicide, which was one-fifth of the total suicides in the state. In the last 16 years, 21,000 farmers have taken their lives.