A group of sugarcane farmers in Uttar Pradesh’s Bijnor district tried to immolate themselves on Monday while protesting outside the district magistrate’s office over unpaid dues, The Times of India reported.

The police reportedly beat the farmers with batons and used water cannons to disperse them when they tried to set themselves on fire. The police have detained eight protestors, including Azad Kisan Union National Convener Rajendra Singh.

The Azad Kisan Union had issued the protest call after giving nine sugar mills in the district time till January 31 to pay sugarcane dues worth Rs 824 crore.

“There are nine sugar mills here in the district,” District Magistrate Atal Rai told the newspaper. “Out of these, two mills belonging to Wave Group did not clear the dues of previous year while rest have paid the dues of last year and they are doing new payment also. We had already filed an FIR against the mill authorities for not paying the dues.”

Rai claimed that the district officials had meet representatives of the farmers’ organisation and had assured them that their dues would be cleared by February 11. However, they were adamant about immolating themselves, the district magistrate added.

Though Rai admitted water canons had been used to disperse the farmers and stop them from setting themselves on fire, he denied that the police had used batons. However, according to Dainik Jagran, Superintendent of Police (City) Lakhsmi Niwas was injured during the clash with the agitating farmers.