A 80-year-old ailing man is among the more than 2,000 people who have got Madhya Pradesh government notices asking them to promise they will not disturb the peace during a 10-day agitation to mark the first anniversary of the police firing in Mandsaur in which six farmers died last year, the Congress and a farm group said on Tuesday.
The Congress alleged the notices were issued under criminal procedure law to scare people and deter them from attending party president Rahul Gandhi’s rally in Mandsaur on June 6, the anniversary of the firing.
The administration of Mandsaur and Neemuch issued notices in the past week to farmers, accusing them of creating a ruckus that led clashes with the police in the two districts last year. The notices were issued after farmer groups announced they will organise protests against the Bharatiya Janata Party-led state government from June 1 to June 10 to press for better prices for their products, loan waivers and other demands.
Ganeshram Patidar, 80 and a resident of Dakni village in Manasa tehsil of Neemuch district, said he was stunned when he received the notice. Patidar can barely walk and he has asthma.
“I have difficulty breathing, and have been bedridden for the past three years. I never participated in any agitation and neither did any members of my family,” Patidar said. He and more than a 100 people from his village travelled to Manasa on Monday evening to protest before the tehsildar, a local government official, against the notice.
Tusharkant Vidyarthi, Neemuch’s Superintendent of Police, said the notice to Patidar was an error and it was meant for another person of the same name in neighbouring Chukni village. “I have issued show-cause notice to the policeman who served the notice. The notice has been taken back,” the SP said.
The notices–issued by the sub-divisional magistrate or a tehsildar on the the local police’s recommendation–ask a person to promise that he won’t disturb peace in the next one year. A person is also asked to fill a bond ranging from Rs 20,000 to Rs 25,000. He also has to pay Rs 10,000 in cash as bail amount. If the person breaks peace, like taking part in violent agitation, fighting with someone etc, the bond amount will be forfeited.
Mangal Gehlot, 27, said that he and nearly 100 other people in his village called Rewas Dewra have got such notices. “I have no criminal case and never participated in any agitation and all villagers will vouch for this. So why was I given this notice. They are randomly picking people and issuing notices,” he said.
Madhya Pradesh home minister Bhupendra Singh said in Bhopal that his department had not issued any order asking for people to sign bonds. “There is no necessity,” he said.
Congress spokesman Manak Agrawal rejected his statement to say: “It is strange that the home minister is unaware that people in hundreds are being made to sign bonds. This is all pressure tactics to frighten the farmers.”
“These notices are vitiating the atmosphere and virtually instigating the farmers to turn violent. We want a peaceful agitation for our just demands,” said Anil Yadav, general secretary of the Bharatiya Kisan Union.
The police have stepped up security in Mandsaur and Neemuch. Makrand Deouskar, Inspector General of Police (intelligence), said an additional 5,000 policemen have been sent to the two districts. Cameras have been fitted along the highway between Neemuch and Mandsaur, and milk and other essential services have been put under ESMA [Essential Services Maintenance Act]. Notices have been issued to people involved in violence during last year’s agitation.
(With inputs from Rohit Soni in Mandsaur)