MP: Collector, SP Removed After Visuals of Dalit Couple Ingesting Pesticide Go Viral

Rajkumar Ahirwar and Savitri consumed pesticide to protest against the police's 'anti-encroachment drive' which involved destroying their crops.

New Delhi: The Shivraj Singh Chouhan government in Madhya Pradesh on Wednesday night removed the Guna collector S. Vishwanathan and Superintendent of Police Tarun Nayak in connection with a recent incident when Rajkumar Ahirwar and Savitri, a Dalit farmer couple, consumed pesticide to save their crops from the police’s anti-encroachment drive.

The move came after a photograph of the couple’s children, crying next to their mother’s dead body went viral.

The officials were removing an illegal settlement from the 45-bigha Guna land reserved for a government post-graduate college. They alleged that Ahirwar had encroached upon most of the land.

Ahirwar had repeatedly requested the officials that he had rightfully bought the land on lease and even sought a loan to cultivate crops on it. He also said that his family members would have no option other than ending their lives if their crops were destroyed.

Despite his appeals, when the couple consumed pesticide, the police booked them under charges of obstructing public officials on duty. A video showing the police beating up Ahirwar’s younger brother was also widely circulated on social media.

Also read: How the ‘Orange Areas’ Dispute in Central India Leaves Dalit, Adivasi Farmers Without Land Rights

“The police had to use force as Ahirwar’s relatives were not letting them take the couple to hospital. The government had sanctioned Rs 12 crore for construction of the college, and any further delay could have resulted in it being shifted to another district,” the collector told the Indian Express before he was removed from his post.

The state’s home minister Narottam Mishra has said that a probe will be conducted by senior officials from Bhopal and action will be sought against those responsible.

Meanwhile, the Congress has said that the police’s actions reveal a “jungle raj” in Madhya Pradesh. “If there was some dispute about the land, it could have been solved legally… Will the government show similar alacrity in clearing encroachment on thousands of acres of government land by so-called jan sevaks (people’s servants)?” said former chief minister Kamal Nath.

A previous attempt to clear the encroachment had been thwarted by the family of Gappu Pardhi, who claimed to be the owner of the land.