Senior Maharashtra government officials reportedly objected when some police officials offered tea and snacks to senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha and others who have laid siege at the police headquarters here since Monday to fight for farmers' issues. However local officials contradicted this, saying they had arranged food for the protesters.
According to official sources, Sinha and several scores of farmers were detained late on Monday evening after they launched an agitation outside the police headquarters.
Later, some police officials, apparently acting on humanitarian grounds, offered Sinha and the others some tea and light refreshments, but an official from the district collectorate reportedly objected and pulled them up (the police) for their gesture.
Contacted for comments, Sinha said even he "had heard about this" from his supporters.
"But I have not personally heard the collectorate's official raising such an objection," Sinha told IANS from the spot of his agitation.
However, Collector Astik Kumar Pandey termed the development as "misleading" and said that he and the Superitendent of Police Rakesh Kalasagar had woken up Sinha around 1.30 a.m. on Tuesday and requested him to have food.
"After the organisers made it clear that they would continue their agitation plans, I instructed police to open up the police hall, arrange for food for around 250 farmers, which they declined, and give mattresses and quilts as the weather here is quite chilly," Pandey told IANS this evening.
Since Sinha had not eaten anything, that night, the organisers arranged for home-cooked food for the senior leader.
"The Superintendent of Police Rakesh Kalasagar and I requested him (Sinha) with folded hands to please have his food at that late hour and fortunately, he conceded," Pandey said.
Sinha said that since Monday evening, the farmers have been agitating to get concrete assurances from the state government on their demands, including minimum support prices to farmers for their produce.
"So far, nobody from the Chief Minister's side, barring the local District Collector, has met or spoken to us," Sinha added.
Now, Sinha - who is accompanied, among others, by Tushar Gandhi, the great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi - has threatened to launch a hunger strike if the farmers' demands are unfulfilled.
Nationalist Congress Party Sharad Pawar and Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray have spoken with Sinha over phone and discussed the farmers' issues with him.
Pawar told Sinha that his party is fully behind Sinha and supports the agitation.
Countering the versions, Pandey said that the state government has already accepted six of the seven demands raised by the farmers, and the final one would take some time to clear.
Earlier on Monday evening, Sinha and others addressed a rally of cotton, soyabean and paddy farmers organized by the Shetkari Jagar Manch of Akola.
In his speech, Sinha accused the ruling party at the centre and in Maharashtra (BJP) of going back on its pre-poll promises of giving 50 percent above the MSP to the farmers.
He warned that just as Indian soldiers effected surgical strikes across the borders, the farming community would carry out a 'surgical strike' against the government till justice was done.
However, Sinha has made it clear that his agitation is "non-political" and entirely dedicated to the cause of the Maharashtra farmers.