Farmers killed as car in minister’s convoy runs amok in Uttar Pradesh
Four farmers protesting with black flags on Sunday were mowed down by a car linked to a Union minister at his village in Lakhimpur Kheri, Uttar Pradesh, days after he had warned that the protesters would be fixed in “two minutes” if they did not mend their ways.
Four more people had died by the end of the day, additional superintendent of police Arun Kumar Singh said. The Union minister of state for home, Ajay Misra “Teni”, said his driver and three BJP workers had been killed but did not give their names.
Superintendent of police Vijay Dhull said: “Total eight people have died. Four of them died under the wheels of a car. Everything will be clear after the post-mortem.”
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha, under whose banner farmers have been protesting against three farm laws since November last year, said the minister’s son Ashis was driving the car that ploughed through the protesters around 3.30pm.
It identified the four dead farmers as Daljeet Singh; Gurvindar Singh of Nanpara in Bahraich; Lav Preet of Paliakalan in Lakhimpur Kheri; and Nachchttar Singh of Dhaurahra, Shahjahanpur. A senior farm leader, Tajinder Singh Virk, was grievously injured and is in hospital.
The Morcha said at a news conference that a shot fired from the convoy Ashis was leading had killed a farmer.
Jagjit Singh, a farmer, has submitted a complaint with the police stating that Ashis Misra had fired and killed a farmer in full public view.
The deaths occurred on a day the BJP chief minister of Haryana, Manohar Lal Khattar, purportedly egged on party workers to raise volunteers in every district in the state’s north-west who would attack farmers. “Pick up lathis. Okay? We will see. And when you pick up lathis, then don’t worry about bail. When you spend some time there, six months, two months… you will become a big leader within months,” the chief minister is purportedly heard saying in a video.
The farmers had arrived at Teni’s home village of Banvirpur in the Tikunia area to protest against the minister’s threatening remarks a week ago. They had gathered at a helipad built for deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya, who was expected to attend an annual wrestling contest in the village.
On September 27, addressing supporters in Lakhimpur Kheri, Teni had purportedly said the farm protests were organised by “those who are not able to face Modiji”.
“So, I want to say, mend your ways or you will face consequences. I will have you mend your ways in two minutes,” the minister purportedly said.
The Morcha, which shared the video, said the farmers were mowed down while “dispersing from their protest at the helipad” and that BKU leader Tajinder Virk was deliberately targeted.
It also counted another victim. It said one of the cars in the convoy turned turtle after knocking down and injuring Virk, and one of its occupants died.
Teni, the local MP, told CNN-News 18 his son was not present at the spot and that there was video evidence of this. “My driver was driving. He and three BJP karyakartas (workers) were killed. The entire incident is a conspiracy,” he said.
Earlier, he had told News1 India Channel: “Someone threw a stone at the driver, he lost consciousness and died. He lost control of the car, which caused an accident.... Some people were injured in the incident and some lost their lives.”
The farmers have denied throwing stones and insist they had ensured the protesters moved either before or after the event so the two sides did not confront each other on the way.
Ashis told reporters that he was 4km away at the wrestling venue. His version of events differed somewhat from his father’s.
“A Mahindra and a Fortuner SUV and a small car carrying my workers were going to receive the deputy chief minister. The farmers stopped the cars, pelted them with stones, and later beat to death my driver Hari Om. Then they killed four more of my workers.”
Maurya said: “There was a wrestling programme in Banvirpur, the ancestral village of Ajay Misra, and I was invited. The farmers turned violent and somehow got under the wheels of someone’s vehicle. The guilty will soon be identified.”
Additional director-general of police (Lucknow zone) S.N. Sabat had earlier in the afternoon said two farmers had died and three were injured after being run over in an “accident”. He had said that only an investigation could identify the vehicle and driver.
Eyewitness Guramneet Mangat said: “Monu Misra and the minister’s brother came with three cars — a Fortuner, a Thar and a Scorpio — and headed for the farmers standing on the roadside. They fired a shot and then ran the cars into the crowd. The car that hit Virk turned turtle and one of those inside the car also died in the process.”
Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait had also told reporters in Ghazipur before leaving for Lakhimpur Kheri that Monu, the elder son of Ajay Misra, was driving an SUV and that he had mowed down “(kuchal diya)” the farmers.
Opposition parties have condemned the incident, with the Congress describing it as an attempt to crush democracy. The party has demanded that the minister step down, a sitting Supreme Court judge investigate the deaths and that Khattar be sacked. Party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra set out for Lakhimpur Kheri on foot from Lucknow on Sunday with party workers.
Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said a five-member team of her party would visit the families on Monday.
The NCP and the Samajwadi Party have condemned the incident.
Samajwadi president and former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav said in a Hindi tweet: “It is most inhuman and cruel that the son of the Union minister of state for home crushed to death the farmers who were peacefully protesting there.”
Internet services have been suspended in Lakhimpur Kheri and prohibitory orders imposed.
Late in the night, the police said a large number of farmers had gathered on Gurdwara Road and Saharanpur Road in Lakhimpur Kheri and damaged half-a-dozen cars.
Ajay Rai, the Tikunia station house officer, said: “I was deployed to prevent the farmers going to the Union minister’s village. But the farmers left the main road and reached the village through agricultural fields. We are trying to find out whose SUV killed the farmers.”
Yogendra Yadav of the Jai Kisan Andolan, a Morcha constituent, said Sunday’s incident was another attempt to provoke the farmers to give up their peaceful resistance and turn to violence.
He said the incident was “shocking” not just for the farmers’ movement but for all manner of people’s struggles.
Yadav and farmer leader Darshan Pal said the movement would stay on course and remain peaceful.
“The biggest strength of our movement is that it is peaceful. If we remain peaceful, we will win,” Yadav said.
The Morcha has given a call for a half-day protest outside the offices of all district collectors/magistrates across the country on Monday.