1998 Multai Massacre of Farmers, when congress fired 150 bullets into farmers protesting in Madhya Pradesh

Amidst ongoing farmers’ protest and Congress showcasing their immense ‘love’ and ‘support’ for the farmers, a video is increasingly giong viral on social media in which a girl can be seen revealing one incident that took place in 1998, Madhya Pradesh.

The inability of the Digvijay Singh-led then-Congress government in Madhya Pradesh resulted in the death of around 24 farmers in Multai. In 2017, Bharatiya Janata Party released a video on Multai agitation and police firing on farmers. The video narrated the chronology of events that led to the Massacre of January 12, 1998, and the events in coming months.

In 1997, the farmers faced heavy losses due to crop damage. The farmers were on the verge of starvation. The loans were piling up. The farmers launched protests against the MP government with several demands, including compensation for the damaged crops, loan waiver, electricity bill waiver, payment against crop insurance and several others.

On December 25, 1997, the farmers gathered outside Multai Tehsil. After 13 days, the police uprooted farmers’ tents. It was alleged that the police reached there at night and demolished the tents. The protesters claimed that the police snatched money that they had brought for ration and forced them to leave the protest site. The protests continued peacefully even after police action against the farmers. On January 11, police allegedly picked some farmers who were close to Sunilam to interrogate them. They were asked about the whereabouts of Sunilam, but the police could not get any information.

On January 12, 1998, Madhya Pradesh police fired on protesting farmers in Multai as the protests went violent. The farmers were seeking compensation for the damaged crops due to adverse weather. Thousands of farmers gathered on the call of then-newly-formed Kisan Sangharsh Samiti. The group had announced a program to lock and gherao the Multai tehsil office.

The group of farmers pelted stones and tried to attack officials. Some vehicles were set on fire. The violence resulted in police opening firing at the protesters. While the official count states 19 farmers lost their lives with over 150 injured, the unofficial count of the dead as per the activists is around 24. BJP was in opposition at that time. They equated the incident to the Jalianwala Bagh massacre.

The farmers stated that the police did not warn them before opening fire on them. As per the eyewitnesses’ testimonies in BJP’s video, farmers were standing outside the tehsil when suddenly the police started firing. They fired several rounds from the nearby hospital as well. The massacre continued for over 2.5 hours, after which a curfew was imposed in the area.

Farmers, who were named in several cases, alleged that there were no cases filed against the officers who shot them. Fines as much as Rs.10,000 were imposed on all accused, and many of them are still struggling to get justice in the courts.

Writer, historian, and activist Dharam Sikarwar is a very active author The Youth. He writes on national and international issues, environment, politics. He is an avid book reader as well.