Apprehensive over political ramifications, the Maharashtra Police and local government officials forcibly broke a six-day long hunger strike by three daughters of poor farmers in Puntamba village, Ahmednagar district, on Saturday.
In a pre-dawn swoop, a police team raided the marquee where two of the three fasting girls -- Nikita Jadhav, 20 and Poonam Jadhav, 19 -- were resting along with relatives and supporters, and whisked them off to Ahmednagar Civil Hospital.
By 3 a.m., the police team uprooted the marquee, banners and posters put up for the agitation after local officials claimed they were "illegally erected". The girls' protesting relatives and supporters were detained while onlookers were chased away.
Angered by the action, the Puntamba village observed a spontaneous shutdown -- the second in three days -- demanding that the girls, including 19-year old Shubhangi Jadhav, who was bundled off to hospital on Friday, should be immediately released.
Following social crusader Anna Hazare's weeklong hunger strike in Ralegan-Siddhi, the Jadhav girls secured the support of several farmers' groups, ruling ally Shiv Sena and the Opposition Congress among others.
Nikita, Shubhangi and Poonam as well as their college students and friends launched the indefinite hunger strike from February 4 for various farmers' demands including full waiver of all farm loans, minimum support price for farm produce, pension for all farmers above 60 years age and free power for agriculture purposes.
The demands also included GST waiver on all farm equipments and machinery, raising procurement prices of milk which are now lower than soft drinks available in the market.
On February 6, schoolgirls and villagers in Puntamba staged a black flag procession which saw the participation of people from neighbouring villages.
While the media has been kept off-bounds, it is learnt that the girls are reportedly kept in the ICU against their wishes but they continued their agitation.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)