Rajat Sharma

Lakhimpur Kheri: Keep politics out, let the probe begin

akb fullThe political pot continues to boil over the Lakhimpur Kheri incident with politicians making a beeline to the trouble spot. On Wednesday, the Uttar Pradesh government gave permission to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, his sister Priyanka Vadra and three other leaders to visit Lakhimpur Kheri. Rahul Gandhi had landed in Lucknow with his two chief ministers, Bhupesh Baghel and Charanjit Singh Channi, to visit the site of clash.

Meanwhile, traffic on the Eastern Peripheral highway has been curtailed near Baghpat to prevent political and social activists from entering Lakhimpur Kheri. Internet was shut for a few hours in Bahraich during cremation of a farmer.

On Tuesday, relatives of farmers who died in clashes, at first refused to cremate the bodies after objecting to no mention of bullet shots in the post mortem reports. After intervention from farmer leader Rakesh Tikait, the three bodies were cremated while the fourth body will undergo a second post mortem. The state government has set up a six-member Special Investigation Team headed by Additional SP Arun Kumar to probe into the clashes.

The FIR filed by Lakhimpur Kheri police clearly mentioned the minister’s son Ashish Mishra as the prime accused. He has been accused of ramming his vehicle into a crowd of farmers and firing from his pistol. Charges of murder under Sec 302 IPC have been levelled against him. The FIR clearly states that Ashish Mishra was present at the spot. He was inside the Thar jeep and there were 15 to 20 armed people accompanying him in other vehicles. The FIR states, Ashish Mishra was sitting on the left seat of Thar jeep near the driver, and was seen firing at the crowd. The word ‘darindgi’ (brutality) has been used in the FIR.

The FIR states, Ashish Mishra jumped from the overturned jeep, and ran to hide in a sugarcane field. The FIR also states, all this was done in a pre-planned manner. Most of the words used in the FIR match with the words written in the representation given by farmers to district authorities.

Earlier on Tuesday, chilling videos of the Union Minister of State Ajay Mishra Teni’s jeep crushing farmers did the rounds, with political parties demanding immediate removal of the minister and the arrest of his son. In the 29-second chilling video shared by farmers from the site of clash, it was shown protesters standing with black flags and banners on both sides of a road near a field. Some of the farmers were walking on the road, but none of them were looking at their back. Suddenly, a vehicle came speedily from behind. The video shows two hands of the driver on the steering wheel. The farmer standing in front did not know that the vehicle was going to crush him. The vehicle crushed him and moved forward.

These are heart rending scenes of deliberate murder. As the vehicle sped ahead, the video showed protesters lying on the road. Many of them were gasping for breath and screaming. Some of them were on their last breath. The surprising part is that a black coloured SUV following this vehicle also sped forward crushing the injured men lying on the road. As the vehicles moved with siren blaring, some of the protesters jumped out of the way, but some of them were thrown up and then crushed by the vehicles.

In another video, a man wearing a sky blue coloured kurta gets out of the Thar jeep and starts running through the field with protesters following him. The farmers also shared a video in which a man whips up his pistol, running, surrounded by a group of men. Farmers allege that the man was the minister’s son, Ashish Mishra. The video was shared on social media by BJP MP Varun Gandhi and Congress leader Priyanka Vadra. Varun Gandhi tweeted, “this video of Lakhimpur Kheri farmers being crushed deliberately shakes one to the core. Police should take cognizance and arrest those seen in the car and those associated with them”.

Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra Teni and his son Ashish Mishra, in an exclusive interview to India TV reporter Pawan Nara, claimed that they were innocent. The minister said, “My son was not there in the Thar jeep. After the jeep was attacked by protesters, the driver was injured, the vehicle lost its balance and it ran over protesters”. The minister’s son claimed that he was present at the wrestling bout, several kilometres away from the trouble spot.

Ajay Mishra Teni admitted that the vehicle shown in the video is registered in his name and the vehicle was being driver by their driver Hari Om Mishra, who was beaten to death by protesters. Asked who was the man wearing a kurta running away from the vehicle, Ajay Mishra said, he recognized the man and he was a party worker Sumit Jaiswal.

Ajay Mishra took pains to say more than once that his son was not there in any of those vehicles. He said, he did not know under which circumstances the vehicles rammed into the crowd. It could be, he said, they were trying to run for safety. It could be, he said, that the driver lost control of the vehicle, which later overturned. Sumit Jaiswal, speaking to our reporter Pawan Nara, admitted that it was he who was fleeing from the vehicle.

Political leaders from the opposition are demanding immediate arrest of Ashish Mishra. Nationalist Congress Party supremo Sharad Pawar compared the Lakhimpur Kheri incident with the Jallianwala Bagh massacre that took place during British rule. Pawar said, this was clear “misuse of power” and a Supreme Court sitting judge should probe into the incident. Shiromani Akali Dal supremo Parkash Singh Badal said, he was shocked over what he called “insensitivity and inaction” on part of government over taking action against those responsible for the deaths of farmers. “The guilty, regardless of who they are, should get exemplary punishment”, the senior Badal said.

There is no doubt that whatever happened in Lakhimpur Kheri was unfortunate and farmers were crushed to death by vehicles. Yogi Adityanath’s government has left no stone unturned in taking action, it has set up an SIT to probe the clashes, has announced judicial probe by a retired High Court judge and offered Rs 45 lakhs assistance to the kin of those killed. FIR has been filed against the minister’s son and everything is being done transparently. In spite of all these, opposition parties are trying to make an issue out of this. Nobody should complain even on that score. Political parties have the right to raise their voice, but in doing so, they must keep the interests of the nation in mind.

I was surprised to find a senior and experienced political leader like Sharad Pawar comparing this incident with Jallianwala Bagh massacre. Some leaders said, even the British never resorted to such atrocities, while some other leaders demanded imposition of President’s Rule. I think these are extreme reactions.

Let an impartial probe be done, let the guilty be punished and let all steps are taken to prevent repetition of such incidents in future. Elections may come and go, governments may come and go, but if people start taking law into their hands, and kill one another out of revenge, then it will be a sad day for our nation.

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