What was to have been a peaceful protest at a wrestling event at Lakhimpur Kheri, Uttar Pradesh, turned bloody with four farmers mowed down by a car, and three BJP supporters and their driver lynched to death. Bodies of the dead farmers are yet to be cremated. Gaon Connection’s ground report from Lakhimpur.
Nighasan (Lakhimpur Kheri), Uttar Pradesh
The mood is sombre outside Maharaja Agrasen Inter College Tikunia in Uttar Pradesh where bodies of three dead farmers rest in glass coffins while the fourth body lies out in the open, wrapped in a shroud.
These four farmers were mowed down by a car during violent clashes yesterday, on October 3, in Tikunia village of Lakhimpur Kheri district, over 200 kilometres from the state capital Lucknow.
Four more people, including three Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers, were beaten with lathis and lynched to death in the clashes too.
Protesting farmers are refusing to cremate the dead “until the guilty are punished”. A large group of farmers, including women, has assembled outside the inter college in Tikunia.
Sitting next to one of the bodies is Maskeen Singh. “This is my nephew. He was only 20 years old. He lived in Bahraich and had come to participate in the farmers’ protest,” he told Gaon Connection.
“A car hit him and he received head injuries and died. He had only come to participate in the protest and support his farmer brothers,” the grief-stricken uncle added. He informed that Gurvinder Singh’s family used to live in Lakhimpur Kheri and had moved to Bahraich many years ago.
Yesterday, on October 3, Uttar Pradesh’s Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Maurya was visiting the Union minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay Kumar Mishra’s village in Tikunia, Lakhimpur Kheri, when local farmers and the supporters of the political leaders clashed leading to eight deaths.
Reportedly, the driver of the car carrying Union Minister Mishra’s son mowed down a group of farmers in Tikunia, including 20-year-old Gurvinder Singh.
However, the minister has denied the presence of his son at the incident. “My son was not present at the place of Lakhimpur Kheri incident; have video evidence,” he was quoted as saying.
The minister also said that stones were pelted on BJP workers’ car which overturned and two persons came under it and died. The minister claimed that BJP workers were lynched after this.
With a black turban on his head, 50-year-old farmer Hoshiyar Singh, who sat outside the inter college in Tikunia, told Gaon Connection about the annual dangal (wrestling) that is organised in Tikunia.
“We had voted for Teni (Ajay Kumar Mishra) only as we have no personal rivalry with him… In the name of Teni’s father, every year on October 2 a dangal is held in Tikunia and we all go to watch it,” Hoshiyar Singh said.
“This year the dangal was organised on October 3 and Keshav Maurya (UP’s deputy chief minister) was coming to attend it. Every year some political leader would attend the event,” the farmer narrated. He complained that a couple of days back, Teni had made objectionable remarks about farmers threatening to drive them away from Lakhimpur and Palia, and hence the farmers had decided to protest when Maurya and Teni visit the dangal site.
“While we were protesting, the son of Ajay Mishra came. There were cars and people were hanging from them. The car was at such a speed that no one could record a video,” said Hoshiyar Singh. “About 500 metres away, the cars collided and a car mowed down people. While they were fleeing, an 18-year-old young man caught them and he was shot dead,” the farmer added.
However, the Union minister Mishra has denied this incident. “Stones pelted on BJP workers’ car which overturned; 2 persons came under it and died; BJP workers lynched after this,” the minister was quoted as saying.
Jagdeep Singh, who hails from Punvaya in Pokharpur, Shahjahanpur, is among the farmers who sat outside the inter college in Tikunia. His back was injured in the clashes yesterday and he was filled with anger.
Thirty-five-year-old Akhilesh Verma, whose village is 10 kilometres away from Tikunia, narrated the flow of the events yesterday. “About a thousand farmers had assembled and taken over the helipad where the deputy chief minister had to land. Hence the minister was being brought by road. The dangal could not be held. There were violent clashes,” Verma told Gaon Connection.
As the news of eight deaths spread across the country, reports of sporadic protests and foot marches are pouring in from various cities. The state and district administrations in Uttar Pradesh are deploying large forces of police to maintain law and order. The state Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has requested people not to pay heed to rumours and that those guilty would be punished after proper investigation.
Meanwhile, farmer leader Rakesh Tikait, national spokesperson of the Bhartiya Kisan Union, has already reached Lakhimpur Kheri and held an early morning meeting, which was also attended by district officials and Superintendents of Police.
Two key opposition leaders of Uttar Pradesh – Akhilesh Yadav, chief of Samajwadi party, and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, general secretary of All India Congress Committee – have been arrested after they were stopped from visiting Lakhimpur Kheri district.
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav was today on October 4 arrested by the Uttar Pradesh police from outside his residence in state capital Lucknow where he staged a protest after being stopped from visiting Lakhimpur Kheri.
A video circulating on social media shows that the Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who was on her way to the clash site, was arrested in Hargaon today. So far, there is no official statement by the UP police on her arrest.
Since last November, several farmers’ organisations have been protesting against these laws terming them ‘anti-farmer’. However, the central government has been assuring them that the new laws were in the interest of the farming community. Several rounds of discussions between the protesting farmers and the central government have failed to break the deadlock.
The three controversial laws are the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020; and Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020. The farmers fear these laws will lead to the abolishment of the minimum support price (MSP) guaranteed by the government on select crops, and leave them at the mercy of big corporates.