NEW DELHI — About 1,000 paramilitary troops were deployed in the Mandsaur region of Madhya Pradesh in central India on Thursday to curb spreading riots after five protesting farmers were fatally shot by police.
Video footage from India Today showed crowds chanting “Long live freedom” as the bodies of the farmers, shrouded in the Indian flag, were paraded through the streets.
Internet and mobile services were suspended in the region, and a curfew was imposed. Rioters set buses and trucks ablaze as tollbooths along the road were looted. Sixty-two farmers were arrested. On the front page of the Times of India, a headline read: “War zone Mandsaur.”
After admitting that police officers killed the farmers, the government offered compensation equivalent to $155,300 to the victims’ families. Top district officials have been removed from their posts.
The protests started after the debt from loans to farmers was waived in the neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh. There, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party recently won a landslide victory based on campaign promises to help farmers, including canceling their debts. Now, farmers in Madhya Pradesh and other parts of the country want the same aid.
Over the past week, truckloads of produce were dumped in the middle of roads or burned in protests calling for higher crop prices. In cities, prices of fruit, vegetables and milk shot up as supplies were blocked.
Speaking to a news crew from NDTV, one of those protesting said: “Farmers were killed. Tell us why first. We are all with them.
“They should get punishment upon punishment, the Shivraj government,” he said, referring to Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the chief minister of the state.
Chouhan appealed for peace in tweets, saying the government would increase prices in accordance with farmers’ demands. “I, myself, am a farmer, and I understand your grievances,” he said. “Rest assured the government is acting on all your demands.”