Two farmers died and 25 policemen injured, besides several ST buses and vehicles set ablaze in the violent agitations by Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana in various parts of western Maharashtra on Monday, marring chief minister Prithviraj Chavan’s visit on Monday to Indapur and adjoining areas.
Indapur, Satara, Sangli and Solapur witnessed intense protests soon after the preventive arrest of farmers’ leader and Ichalkaranji Lok Sabha MP Raju Shetty. Protesting farmers set ablaze vehicles at many places. Opposing the arrests, furious mobs of agitating farmers pelted stones and attacked police vans as well. Most of the vehicles and passengers were stranded on all routes, as the agitators attacked some vehicles and torched 2 police vehicles on Monday afternoon.
Shetty had launched the farmers’ agitation in Indapur demanding a minimum support price of Rs3,000 for sugarcane growers, which has not gone down well with the sugar lobby of western Maharashtra, controlled primarily by Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress politicians. The agitations, which had been going on for the last six days, turned violent after Shetty’s arrest on Monday morning.
In Indapur, agitators staged demonstrations and deflated vehicles to stage a rasta roko. In one such attempt, Kundalik Balu Kokate (22) of the Sanghatna, was killed while deflating a truck tyre.
Speaking to DNA, additional superintendent Vijaykumar Magar of Pune rural police said, “Kokate was a resident of Narotewadi village. He, along with other agitators had stopped a sand-filled truck and tried to deflate its tyre. However, the air pressure was such that he was thrown back and hit his head on the road, receiving severe skull injuries. He was rushed to a nearby hospital, but in vain. We handed over his body to his family.”
In Palus taluka of Sangli, police opened fire at agitating farmers after they staged a rasta roko at all the major roads leading to Sangli — Sangli-Kolhapur road, Sangli-Islampur road and Sangli-Palus road. They set ablaze a Sangli-Aundh bus and police had to resort to lathi charge after which the mob became even more violent and set ablaze a constable’s motorbike. Initially, police opened fire in the air.
However, as the mob was still violent, police fired in the direction of the mob and Chandrakant Nalawade (32) was seriously injured as one bullet pierced his stomach, while two bullets hit him in both the thighs. He succumbed to injuries at the government hospital. Nalawade’s death further fomented violence and farmers pelted stones at police vehicles coming to the village.
The police had to call for extra force and the State Reserve Police Force was also deployed. The farmers set ablaze a garbage van of the Sangli Municipal Corporation on Islampur Road and fire tenders were requisitioned for putting off fires. Agitators also turned turtle a milk tanker at Ankali bypass.
In Satara, agitating farmers staged rasta roko along the Pune-Bangalore Highway at three places. Farmers resorted to pelting stones at police. Around seven agitators were taken into custody in Phaltan. Agitating farmers were accompanied by members of Shiv Sena, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and other political organisations.