At least five farmers were shot dead and four others injured at a protest in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh on Tuesday, according to local media reports.
The spokesperson of a farming union said police had fired on the protesters in Mandasur city, marking an escalation of violence as a rural strike demanding debt relief spread.
“Police started firing to disperse the crowd. Farmers were not carrying weapons,” Gajendra Tokas of the National Farm Workers’ Union, which has called for a state-wide strike on Wednesday, told Reuters news agency.
However, the state’s home minister, Bhupendra Singh, denied the allegations by the farming union, claiming that bullets were shot by “anti-social elements”.
Protesters burned several vehicles on Monday night and disrupted traffic movement on the Mandasur highway.
Singh has ordered an investigation into the deaths.
“We have asked for details – how the firing started, how many people were killed,” he told CNN News 18.