Mumbai, (The Hindu): Independence Day celebrations in the State were marred by widespread reports of use of force by the police to disperse farmers protesting the delay in implementing the farm loan waiver scheme. Farmer organisations had tried to prevent Guardian Ministers from hoisting the national flag in their respective districts as a mark of protest. The stir was also hit by the last-minute withdrawal from the protest by a farmer organisation.
Several farmer leaders were taken into preventive custody in Ahmednagar, Pune, Beed, Kolhapur, Parbhani, Nashik, Sangli and at many other places to avoid clashes. “We , farmers had gone to present a memorandum of demands to the Minister in Ahmednagar, but the police not only arrested the leaders but also lathicharged us for no reason. We condemn the BJP government’s violent actions against farmers. The government must understand that such tactics will not lower the morale of farmers,” Ajit Nawale, convener of the farmers steering committee, said.
Arrests were also made in Parbhani, where farmer leaders and over 50 farmers were arrested. In Nashik and Kolhapur, farmer leaders were arrested even before their agitation began. Ashok Dhavale of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) said many farmers from Sangli were picked up on Monday night to prevent their participation in agitations against Ministers hoisting the national flag. “In Ahmednagar, we sought a meeting with the Guardian Minister Ram Shinde to submit a memorandum of our demands, but the police resorted to lathicharge. We condemn this undemocratic behaviour of the State government. This is a clear attempt to suppress our demands,” he said.
In Beed, Guardian Minister Pankaja Munde skipped the Independence Day flag hoisting ceremony as farmers led by the Shetkari Sanghatana protested outside the Collectorate. In Aurangabad, farmers protested outside the Collectorate when Guardian Minister Ramdas Kadam came for the flag-hoisting ceremony. Many were detained by the police.
In Pune, veteran social activist Baba Adhav and hundreds of supporters were taken in to police custody, as they had demanded that Pune Guardian Minister Girish Bapat not hoist the flag, and instead allow a farmer or the widow of a martyred soldier to do the honours.
The Swabhimani Shetakari Sanghatana (SSS), which has a sizeable presence in western Maharashtra and had participated in the rasta roko on Monday, chose not to join Tuesday’s protest saying it had informed the committee earlier. “Flag hoisting on Independence Day is a national event and we feel it should not be disrupted. We had informed the steering committee of our decision to not participate in this agitation,” SSS leader and Lok Sabha MP Raju Shetti said.
Several farmer leaders including Farmers Action Committee leaders Balasaheb Patare, Subhash Lande, Sanjeev Bhor, Mahesh Navale, Nilesh Talekar and Rajendra Bavke were detained.
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