For the sixth time in the last 10 months, Digvijay Singh's firing squad—the police force—made itself busy. On January 12, as hordes of farmers gathered at Multai in Betul district to demand compensation for crops damaged in severe rain and hailstorms, a posse of 100 policemen swooped on them, opened fire and killed 17 on the spot.
Multai's farming community had gathered under the banner of the Kisan Sangharsh Morcha, which was floated by Dr Sunilam (Sunil Mishra), a PhD from Delhi University and member of the Janata Dal national executive, to fight for their rights. The agitation, led by Sunilam and his colleague Anirudh Mishra, was launched on December 20 to press for an 11-point charter of demands—the most important being the demand for a Rs 5,000 compensation for each hectare of damaged crop and a waiver of farm loans. The land revenue code provides a compensation of Rs 1,000 per hectare for crop failure due to natural calamities.