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UP govt links Lakhimpur Kheri assault to Holi brawl

Diljot Singh had alleged in an FIR that supporters of Teni beat him up on March 10 after the election result became clear

R. Balaji New Delhi Published 30.03.22, 04:24 AM
Ashis Mishra.

Ashis Mishra. File photo

The Uttar Pradesh government claimed in the Supreme Court on Tuesday that the assault on a “prime witness” of the Lakhimpur Kheri massacre of farmers was the fallout of a brawl over “Holi gulal (colours)” and had nothing to do with the carnage or the release on bail of Ashis Mishra, son of Union minister Ajay Mishra Teni.

Diljot Singh had alleged in an FIR that triumphant supporters of Teni, the Union junior home minister, beat him up on March 10 after the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election result became clear and threatened to kill him if he did not withdraw from the murder case against Ashis.


The Uttar Pradesh government said in an affidavit to the top court: “…The investigation of said incident of 10.03.2022... has revealed that the same is not related at all to the FIRs pertaining to the 03.10.2021 incident (Lakhimpur Kheri massacre of farmers). As per the Petitioners’ case, one Diljot Singh, son of Jarnail Singh, was beaten by miscreants on 10.03.2022. As per the FIR registered by Diljot Singh, the attackers threatened him saying that Respondent No. I (Ashis) is out on bail and the ruling party (BJP) has also won the election and that they will see to him.

“However, during the course of investigation, Diljot Singh’s gunner Manoj Singh (assigned to protect him as per this Hon’ble Court’s Orders)… as well as 3 independent eyewitnesses to the incident were examined, and all 4 persons stated that the incident occurred suddenly due to an altercation between Diljot Singh and the attacker party over the throwing of Gulal on him,”

The Uttar Pradesh Assembly election results were declared on March 10. Holi was celebrated on March 18-19. It is common to celebrate electoral victories with gulal.

The affidavit has been filed by Kumar Prashant, special home secretary, through standing counsel Ruchira Goel.

Hearing the pleas of the families of some of the victims of the Lakhimpur Kheri carnage on October 3 last year seeking the cancellation of Ashis’s bail and the citing of the assault on Diljot as one of the grounds, the apex court had issued notice to the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh.

In its counter-affidavit filed in response to the March 16 notice issued by a bench headed by Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana, the Uttar Pradesh government pointed out that it has provided gunmen and round-the-clock security to 98 witnesses in the Lakhimpur Kheri case under the 2018 witness protection scheme.

The police had registered a case against five people for allegedly attacking Diljot, who had deposed that he saw a Thar jeep belonging to Teni mow down four farmers and a journalist in Tikunia, Lakhimpur Kheri, on October 3 last year. Diljot says he also saw Ashis get off the car, fire in the air and run away.

Earlier during the hearing of the appeal of the victims’ families, senior advocate Dushyant Dave and advocate Prashant Bhushan had sought the cancellation of Ashis’s bail, granted by Allahabad High Court, and called attention to the attack on Diljot and the threats allegedly issued to him.

In their petition before the Supreme Court on February 21, the victims’ families had argued that Allahabad High Court had, while granting bail to Ashis on February 10, failed to examine his “character” and the “overwhelming evidence” against him.

The bench of CJI Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli will take up the matter on Wednesday.

The Uttar Pradesh has in the counter-affidavit quoted witnesses, including Diljot’s gunman who is a policeman from the state, to say that the attack was related to the smearing of Holi gulal. It mentions that Diljot has in his FIR stated that the attackers had warned that “they will see him” as Ashis is out on bail and the BJP has won a fresh mandate.

The Uttar Pradesh government has pointed out in its affidavit that in keeping with Section 161 of the CrPC, the police recorded the eyewitnesses’ statements around 8.15pm on March 10.

“(According to the statements) Diljot Singh came towards the Primary School near Danga on a tractor trolley laden with sugarcane. His police gunner Manoj Singh was with him at the time. At that time, some people were playing with Holi Gulal near the school and threw the Gulal on Diljot Singh as well. When Diljot Singh objected to the same, an altercation broke out between him and the others, in which one of the miscreants hit him with a belt and others kicked and punched him,” the state government affidavit says.

“It is submitted that contrary to the case… in the FIR registered by Diljot Singh, all the witnesses were ad idem (unanimous) on the fact that none of the miscreants mentioned either the Respondent No. I (Ashis) or the ruling party winning the elections, and that the incident was a result of a sudden altercation due to the dispute over Holi Gulal and had no relation to the incident of 03.10.2021 (the farmers being run over in Kheri). It is also pertinent to note that even the FIR itself does not mention the presence of the Respondent No. I or other accused… on the scene.

“Thus, it is humbly submitted that it is evident that the incident of 10.03.2022… has absolutely no relation with (the Lakhimpur Kheri massacre). Thus the attempt by the petitioners in the SLP (special leave petition)… to conflate and connect the two incidents is completely unwarranted,” the affidavit adds.

It says the families of all the victims and witnesses whose statements have been recorded under CrPC Section 164 by a judicial magistrate have been receiving round-the-clock security.

“Each witness has one armed police gunner. The families of the victims have one armed gunner each, along with permanent security guard and continuous monitoring through installed CCTV cameras, as well as barrier duty at their residence. A total of 98 persons have been provided security, of which 79 are from Kheri district, 17 from outlying districts and 2 from the State of Uttarakhand,” the affidavit states.

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