On Sunday, September 3, a car linked to the union minister of state for home Ajay Kumar Mishra rammed into protesting farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri district in north Indian State of Uttar Pradesh, killing four. Following the incident, the farmers have vowed to intensify their agitation against the Bharatiya Janata Party governments in the State and Center. They called the Lakhimpur Kheri incident an attempt to derail the peaceful anti-farm law agitation. Farmers across India have been protesting for months against three controversial farms laws introduced by the Narendra Modi government,
The incident led to clashes in the area, leading to the death of four others. Though the minister denied the involvement of his son Ashish Mishra, videos circulating on social media show him in the vehicle which rammed into the farmers.
Eyewitnesses quoted in various reports also said Ashish Mishra was driving one of the vehicles that hit the farmers from behind. Infuriated survivors surrounded the cars and burned them. A local journalist was also killed in the firing that ensued.
Following the killing of the farmers, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella group leading the nationwide protests against central farm laws for the last ten months, called for the immediate sacking of the minister and for a court-supervised investigation into the incident. In a separate statement, SKM also warned the State government of Uttar Pradesh, to cease its “undemocratic methods” of preventing the opposition leaders from trying to reach the families of the victims of the Lakhimpur massacre. A number of opposition leaders were prevented from reaching the area.
Amid protests by farmers groups and opposition political parties, the State government announced a compensation of Rs 4,500,000 (around USD 62,000) for the families of each victim. The police have registered cases against 13 people, including Ashish Mishra. However, no arrests have been made so far.
According to the police, Sunday’s incident took place on Tikonia-Banbirpur road when the farmers agitating against the farm laws blocked the road to prevent the deputy chief minister’s visit to the region. The farmers were also opposing a provocative speech given by Ajay Mishra a few days ago.
On the day of the incident, another BJP leader and chief minister of the State of Haryana, Manoharlal Khatter, also gave a similar speech instigating BJP activists to indulge in violence against the agitating farmers.
The BJP has refused to listen to farmers’ demands for the last ten months, maintaining that the three farm laws are for their welfare. Several BJP leaders and many pro-government commentators have tried to write off the protests, calling the agitating farmers a “small minority,” “terrorists,” and even “professional agitators.” The central and BJP-led State governments in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have used repressive and provocative methods against the farmers’ agitation.
Widespread condemnation and demand for action
SKM wrote to the president of India on Monday demanding the immediate sacking of Manoharlal Khattar from his chief minister’s post.
Most opposition parties in India condemned the attack and demanded that all culprits be arrested immediately. They also demanded that the central government withdraw all three farm laws. Left parties took out several protest rallies across the country on Monday. Communist Party of India (Marxist) demanded that Ajay Mishra be sacked from his post immediately.
Left affiliated-farmers group and a constituent of the SKM, All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), also carried out protest marches all across the country demanding the arrest of Ajay Mishra’s son and adequate compensation for the family of the farmers killed.
Protest programs were held across the state of Jharkhand by left parties including CPI(M) and left mass organisations against the gruesome killing of farmers at Lakhimpur in Uttar Pradesh. pic.twitter.com/uSFCLlaeG9
— CPI (M) (@cpimspeak) October 5, 2021
AIKS condemns brutal killing of 4 farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri, UP. Reports say Union MoS, Ajay Mishra Teni"s son & BJP goons in cars ran over & also fired at farmers.Terai Kisan Sanghatan & SKM leader Tajinder Singh Virk is also injured. Dismiss Ajay Teni. Arrest Ashish Teni.
— AIKS (@KisanSabha) October 3, 2021
Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU), another constituent of the SKM, stated that the government is trying to discredit the 10-month-long agitation where tens of thousands of farmers demonstrated across India seeking the repeal of farmers’ laws.
The farmers fear the laws will pave the way for corporate entry into “production, marketing, storage and even pricing of agricultural produce.”