Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait said today that he did not find those who killed BJP workers in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri guilty, as they had only reacted to the Union Minister Ajay Mishra’s SUV, allegedly driven by his son Ashish, running over protesters there.
Eight people were killed in the violent incident of 3 October after an SUV either ran over four of them or they were crushed under the weight of the car after they tried to topple it at the anti-farm law protest site in Lakhimpur Kheri while other farmers’ alleged retaliation killed three BJP workers and a journalist. Local news reports say the casualties were nine, the number of BJP workers killed being four and not three.
A group of protesters were demonstrating against the visit of Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya at Tikonia-Banbirpur Road that day.
The nine casualties comprise alleged farmers, three BJP workers including the SUV driver, and a journalist.
Tikait, admitting to farmers killing two BJP workers, said, “The killing of two BJP workers in Lakhimpur Kheri after a convoy of cars mowed down four farmers is a reaction to an action. I do not consider the killers culprits,” in his reply to a question asked during a media briefing in New Delhi.
Protesters other than Tikait demanded that Union Minister of State Ajay Mishra be sacked and his son Ashish be arrested even after the latter had surrendered and the police charged him under Section 302 (murder) of the IPC. The minister said today that his son was innocent.
An umbrella body of farmers’ unions, Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), has decided to amplify their protests by blocking railway tracks on 18 October.
Earlier in the day, Ashish Mishra, who had been accused of running over the farmers in the Lakhimpur Kheri protest site, appeared before the UP Police’s crime branch responding to the second summons issued to him.
SKM leader Yogendra Yadav said, “We are sad over the loss of lives, be it BJP workers or farmers. It was unfortunate and we hope justice is done.”
Demanding the arrest of Union Minister of State Ajay Mishra and his son Ashish, the SKM, which includes the BKU led by Tikait, has called for ‘rail roko’ on 18 October to protest against the Lakhimpur Kheri violence. They plan to burn effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Dusshera on 15 October, Yadav said.
“Union Minister Ajay Mishra should be removed and arrested as he started this conspiracy,” Yadav said, alleging that the minister was protecting the culprits in the case.
After his son failed to appear before UP Police for questioning in the case yesterday, Ajay Mishra had claimed that his son was “innocent” and could not report to the cops as he was “unwell”. The minister reiterated that his son was not involved in the alleged act of mowing down four farmers.
Amid demands for his resignation and his son’s arrest, the minister said, “This is a BJP government that works in an unbiased manner. Action will be taken against those found guilty.”
Meanwhile, farmer leader Joginder Singh Ugrahan termed the union government’s approach towards the anti-farm protesters as “violent”, saying, “The government has adopted violent approach against protesting farmers. We won’t take to violence.”
Another farmer leader Darshan Pal, echoing the words of Tikait, said, “The Lakhimpur Kheri incident was part of a pre-planned conspiracy. They (attackers) tried to terrorise farmers.”
A day after skipping the summons, Ashish Mishra arrived at the Police Lines office of the UP Police Crime Branch for questioning over the violence in the district.
Thereafter, Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu ended his hunger strike, which he had vowed to continue until Ashish reported to the police or was arrested. He had started his fast at the Lakhimpur house of journalist Raman Kashyap who was killed in the violence on Friday.
Ashish appeared before the special investigation team (SIT) of UP Police before 11 AM, the time mentioned in the second summons served to him. The SIT questioned him for 9 h.
Police officials at the spot refused to comment on the ongoing interrogation.
Targeting the Uttar Pradesh government over the handling of the investigation in the Lakhimpur Kheri case, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav alleged the culprits are being given “samman” (honour) instead of “summon”.
Addressing reporters a few hours after Ashish Mishra appeared before the SIT, the former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh alleged, “The way farmers were crushed, now preparations are on to crush the laws. This government has pulverised the Constitution… You have seen how a vehicle ran over farmers who were fighting for their rights. The guilty persons are yet to be caught. Instead of giving summons, a flower bouquet is being given. The summon is only in name, and (in reality) ‘samman’ (honour) is given.”
Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut said his party would participate with full force in the bandh on 11 October in Maharashtra to protest against the killing of farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri. Addressing reporters, accompanied by NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik and Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant, Raut said it was necessary to make people aware of the “anti-farmer” policies of the union government. “Peasants are not alone in this struggle and the process of showing solidarity towards them must begin from Maharashtra,” Raut said.
Members of the Indian Youth Congress (IYC) today held a protest in New Delhi demanding the resignation of Ajay Mishra and arrest of his son Ashish. Led by IYC national president Srinivas BV, the protesters assembled at Sunehri Bagh Road to march towards Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s house on Krishna Menon Marg, but the police, which had barricaded the protest venue, stopped them.