Maharashtra sugarcane price protest turns violent, 2 killed


Two farmers were killed Monday after a campaign demanding higher sugarcane prices turned violent at several places in western Maharashtra. The deaths intensified the agitation that had started in the morning after leaders of the farmers' group, Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS), were detained by the police.

One protester was killed in police firing in Sangli; another farmer died near Indapur in Pune district when the tyre of a truck he was trying to deflate exploded, injuring him fatally. Violence spread to other districts following the deaths.

The SSS has been demanding a first installment of Rs 3,000 per tonne for the sugarcane crop in the state. Raju Shetty, SSS president and Hatkanangle MP, has been sitting in protest since November 7 on the premises of Karmyogi Co-operative Sugar Factory in Indapur, which is controlled by co-operatives minister Harshavardhan Patil.

On Saturday, Shetty had announced that the campaign would intensify after chairmen and MDs of 26 sugar factories in Kolhapur, Satara and Sangli declared Rs 2,300 as the first installment. A former associate of farmers leader Sharad Joshi, Shetty launched the sanghatana after Joshi joined hands with the BJP. He has been leading farmers' campaigns over sugarcane pricing and entered parliament in 2009 after defeating a two-time NCP MP by 95,000 votes.

On Monday morning, police detained Shetty and SSS state president Sadabhau Khot along with nearly 200 supporters in Indapur as a "preventive measure" to avoid any disruption of Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan's rally scheduled to be held in Walchandnagar town near Indapur. However, several protesters gave police the slip and blocked roads in and around Indapur.

"One of the protesters, Kundalik Kokate of Narutwadi, was trying to deflate the tyre of a loaded truck when it burst, severely injuring him. He succumbed to his injuries on the way to hospital. Protesters burnt down two state transport buses and damaged seven more. Indapur police inspector Ashok Pawar and two constables sustained injuries in the stone-pelting," said additional SP Ravindrasinh Pardeshi.

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