Mumbai: Social activist Anna Hazare today extended support to protesting farmers in Maharashtra. He said he is willing to mediate between the state government and the farmers if asked to. "I extend my support to farmers' agitation and the cause behind it. It is better if they resort to a peaceful way of protest," Mr Hazare told reporters.
His appeal for peaceful protest came after the protest turned violent in some parts of Maharashtra with the incidents of stone-pelting and attacks on vehicles carrying milk and vegetables to Mumbai were reported on Wednesday night.
Mr Hazare said he was ready to join discussions between the farmers' leaders and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis if he was asked to. Yesterday, Mr Fadnavis expressed willingness to hold talks with the farmers.
"Satyagraha is a birthright of all. The government should not use police force when there is a peaceful agitation," Mr Hazare said. He alleged that farmers resorted to protests due to "anti-farmer" policies of the government.
"Farmers must get an assurance on price of their agricultural produce based on expenses incurred by them on production. This demand has always been neglected by all the past governments," Mr Hazare said.
A non-political movement of farmers is necessary to put pressure on the whole political system to meet the demands of farmers, he said. "If farmers' leaders wish so, I am ready to initiate a dialogue with farmers and the government," Mr Hazare said.
Farmers from many parts of the state including Nashik, Pune and Ahmednagar districts have joined the protest, which entered the second day today. The agitation is mainly spearheaded by activists though parties such as the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatna, led by Raju Shetti, an ally of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, have extended moral support to the stir.
Among the demands raised by agitating farmers are waiving loans owing to crop failure and indebtedness, besides ensuring a guaranteed minimum support price or MSP for their produce.
Farmers in Nashik district are opposing acquisition of land for the proposed Super Communication Expressway connecting Mumbai and Nagpur. A curfew was imposed in Yeola town in Nashik district yesterday, following a clash between the police and stone-pelters.
At Lasalgaon in Nashik district, protesters stoned a police jeep, damaging its windshield. Some protesters had dumped onions, chillies, mangoes and tomatoes on the streets. Weekly markets at 82 places in the district remained closed.