Clashes as farmer leader allegedly abuses Mayawati

March 31st, 2008 - 8:49 pm ICT by admin  

By Ritu Sharma
Sisauli (Uttar Pradesh), March 31 (IANS) Hundreds of farmers clashed with the police here in Uttar Pradesh Monday after the authorities launched a house-to-house hunt for farmer leader Mahendra Singh Tikait for allegedly abusing Chief Minister Mayawati. The police fired tear gas at activists of Tikait’s Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) who hurled volleys of stones from rooftops to stop the search for their popular leader, injuring at least eight people.

Eventually, the police backed off although they said they were determined to arrest Tikait, against whom the government slapped a case under the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe Act, which forbids derogatory epithets based on caste.

Three battalions of the Uttar Pradesh Police and the Provincial Armed Constabulary surrounded Sisuali village in Muzaffarnagar as they began to search for Tikait, who commands a vast following in the farming community.

His enraged supporters fought pitched battles with the security personnel almost the whole day.

The BKU’s leader’s son Surendra and nine others were detained, Inspector General of Meerut Range V.K. Gupta told IANS.

A villager said: “The entire village came out in support of Tikait when the police arrived Monday morning.”

By Monday evening, a defiant Tikait returned to the village to attend a meeting of the panchayat, or village elders. Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) president Ajit Singh and Muzaffarnagar MP Anuradha Chowdhury of the RLD also attended the meet.

Tikait told IANS that he had received messages of support from Samajwadi Party chief and former chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav as well as Bharatiya Janata Party president Rajnath Singh. All of them had spoken to him on phone, he said.

Given the tension, the police decided not to arrest Tikait for now, police officer Gupta told IANS.

“If we had arrested Tikait now, there would be a major law and order situation and many innocent people would have been affected,” Gupta said. “But he will be arrested soon.”

The trouble originated from Tikait’s speech at a farmer rally Sunday to demand more benefits for sugarcane growers. Sugarcane is the staple cash crop of this area in western Uttar Pradesh.

A farmer leader said: “The farmers have been demanding water and electricity to grow and process sugarcane for quite some time.”

There are reports some farmers opened fire at policemen and that the latter fired back.

Ajit Singh later said: “Mayawati has got into the habit of arresting people on trivial issues.”

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