Congress president Rahul Gandhi will be addressing a rally at Mandsaur in Madhya Pradesh today, kickstarting his party's campaign for the state's assembly elections scheduled for November this year.
The venue and the date of the rally is symbolic since Mandsaur was the epicentre of last year's farmers' agitation and had witnessed violence on June 6, when six people were killed in police firing.
This year, farmers across Madhya Pradesh joined the pan-India farmers' strike for 10 days from June 1. The strike is being led by the Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh (RKM), an umbrella body of more than 125 farmers' organisations.
Gandhi's rally is scheduled to begin at 1pm. Around 100,000 people are expected to turn up for the rally, according to Business Standard, and security has been stepped up across the district.
What had happened in Mandsaur?
Mandsaur, a western district in Madhya Pradesh, had witnessed a farmers' strike last year due to several factors, including plummeting onion prices and inability of farmers to recover basic costs of cultivation.
Moreover, farmers were also often forced to sell their produce below cost and transportation cost exceeded the value. Demonetisation added to their woes.
To draw attention to these issues and protest against government inaction, farmers across MP launched a strike. Mandsaur became the epicentre after the protests turned violent and police had to resort to firing. The firing took place in two places — Bhai Choupati and Piplya Mandi.
This sparked further violence with farmers torching vehicles and blocking roads.
A political war of words erupted over the incident, and MP CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan requested for a legal investigation.
What did the investigation conclude?
Almost a week after the incident, the MP government appointed a single-member inquiry commission headed by retired High Court judge Justice J K Jain.
The investigation was to conclude in three months from the date of appointment. However, the panel sought four extensions to submit the final report and completed its term on May 11, 2018.
Three days after the incident, the state government had admitted that police had resorted to firing. "Police firing killed the farmers. It has been established in the probe,"state Home Minister Bhupendra Singh had said.
In March 2018, two CRPF constables told the inquiry commission that the firing from their side was unintentional since their guns went off during a skirmish with a mob that was trying to snatch their weapons.
What is the situation now?
Post the violence, the MP government launched a number of schemes, including Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana, guaranteeing assured income to farmers.
However, farmers remain dissatisfied with the scheme, alleging that the scheme benefits traders more than farmers.
With their demands not met, and the probe into last year's firing not yet concluded, several leaders from across the political spectrum are set to visit Mandsaur to show their support. Apart from Rahul Gandhi and senior Congress leaders, Pravin Togadia, until recently a member of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), is also slated to visit.
Togadia will be sharing stage with BJP leader Shatrughan Sinha and former Union minister Yashwant Sinha.
Meanwhile, Congress will be looking to announce its strategy for farmers in Madhya Pradesh ahead of the crucial assembly elections.