Before Farmers' Stir, Madhya Pradesh Villagers Told to Sign Peace Bonds

The Mandsaur administration says it has identified 1,200 people who could create trouble during the farmers' protest planned from June 1-10

Five people died in police firing during last year's farmer agitation in Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh

Mandsaur/Madhya Pradesh: Ahead of the first anniversary of farmers' protest in Madhya Pradesh's Mandsaur during which five protesters were killed in police firing, the district administration has asked hundreds of villagers to sign a bond saying they will maintain peace in the area.

To protest the police firing that took place on June 6 last year, many farmer organisations across India have called for "Gaon bandh" from June 1-10 during which no farm produce would be allowed to be transported outside villages.

The district administration says it has identified nearly 1,200 people who could create trouble either due their past record or because they are in touch with alleged agitators.

Notices have been served on many villagers who have been told to report at their local police stations where they will be questioned based on data gathered by cops. If their responses are found unsatisfactory, they will be asked to sign a bond of Rs 25,000 under Section 107 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) --- an undertaking to ensure peace. Any violation can lead to the money being forfeited and a possible jail term.

Among those who have received the notice is Madhusudan Patidar whose 17-year-old brother Abhishek died after he was hit by a bullet during last year's agitation. Their father Dinesh Patidar insists his sons are innocent and had done nothing to do with the protests.

"We thought we would forget what happened last year but, with this notice, they are ensuring we don't.700 such notices have been issued in Malhargarh tehsil," he said.

The government claims it's a precautionary move aimed at identifying potential trouble-makers.

"We have taken action against those who were active during last year's agitation or those who have a criminal record, said Sunder Singh Kanesh, Additional Superintendent of Police, Mandsaur.

With assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh are due later this year, the government is keen on pre-empting any re-run of last year's violent protest.

On June 6, Congress president Rahul Gandhi will hold a rally near Pipliyamandi, where the firing took place. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is scheduled to address a public meeting in Mandsaur on May 30.

"BJP is scared of Rahul Gandhi, that's why they are issuing notices and asking people to sign bonds of Rs 25,000. They want to stop farmers from attending the rally, alleged Congress spokesperson Firoze Siddiqui.

The BJP has rejected the allegations, saying it has no reason to be afraid of the Congress chief's rally. "We are simply following the law," said BJP spokesperson Rahul Kothari.