A day after four farmers were killed in UP’s Lakhimpur Kheri after being hit by a convoy of cars, including one owned by Union MoS Ajay Mishra, and four others died in clashes, the UP government scrambled to contain the fallout by promising a judicial probe, registering an FIR on charges of murder against the Minister’s son and announcing compensation totalling Rs 45 lakh each for families of the deceased farmers.
Near the site of the incident in Tikunia, farm protesters arrived in large numbers throughout Monday from different parts of the state and Punjab, Haryana and Uttarakhand. But the spotlight was on Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait who played a key role in facilitating the post-mortem of the four farmers who were killed after protesters kept the bodies overnight at a college ground.
Tikait and Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar were the only leaders allowed to enter the area amid a state government clampdown on the entry of Opposition leaders and Internet services.
Tikait remained closeted for most of the morning inside a room in a school nearby with farm leaders and senior officials. Around 1 pm, some of the officials, including UP ADG (Law and Order) Prashant Kumar and Additional Chief Secretary (Agriculture) Devesh Chaturvedi, stepped out to announce a “truce”.
“He (Tikait) has agreed to give a call to send the bodies for post-mortem. We have assured him that the families of the four farmers killed will be given compensation of Rs 40 lakh and farmers’ insurance of Rs 5 lakh each. The government will give Rs 10 lakh each to those injured,” said Laxmi Singh, IG Lucknow (range), who was part of the group that met Tikait.
“A judicial committee headed by a senior judge will probe the incident and we have promised the farmer leaders that a fair and swift investigation will be done. We have lodged an FIR under relevant sections. They are satisfied after our conversation and have agreed to call off the protest,” Singh said.
Speaking to reporters, Tikait said: “We have been assured that the accused will be arrested within seven days and we are content for now.”
Asked about the alleged vandalism and violence, he said: “The Home Minister (MoS) is a goonda, and his son can kill common people by running over them. Burning the cars of a goonda is not violence.”
After the meeting, the bodies of the four farmers killed, who were identified by their leaders on Sunday itself, were taken to the district headquarters. On Monday, official sources named the other four killed as Hari Om Mishra (35), the Minister’s driver; Shyam Sunder (40) and Shubham Mishra (26), local BJP leaders; and Raman Kashyap (30), a journalist.
Later, speaking to The Indian Express, Tikait said: “We have also been assured that a government job will be provided to each of the families of the deceased farmers.” However, IG Singh said the protesters had not raised any demand for a government job “and no promise has been made on this”.
On Sunday, the protesting farmers had alleged that one of the cars that hit the crowd was driven by Union MoS Mishra’s son, Ashish Mishra. The Minister had denied the allegation and said the car was being driven by the family’s driver. He had said that “assailants armed with swords and sticks” attacked the occupants of the vehicles and killed four persons, including his driver.
According to police, the incident occurred after farmers assembled in Tikunia to show black flags to UP Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya, who was scheduled to visit Banveerpur, the village of MoS Mishra’s parents, for an event.
Monday began with simmering anger on the ground amid heavy police deployment, including from other districts.
At Tikunia, there was a huge crowd of farm protesters by 11 am, with the four bodies kept in glass boxes next to a tractor, surrounded by family members and with hundreds lining up to pay their respects.
“I have come here because our brothers were trampled by a Minister’s son while holding a peaceful protest on Sunday. As soon as I heard about the incident and a call given by farmers to gather here, I decided to come,” said Narender Singh (55), who owns around four acres in Shahjahanpur and has arrived with friends Malkeet Singh and Sirjeet Singh.
“This is the beginning of the spread of the farmers’ movement against the farm laws. Till now, people were saying it is a Punjab and Haryana issue. But now, it will spread in UP because of this incident,” said Gurmeet Singh, one of the protesters.
By evening, several protesters started leaving Tikunia, saying they were happy with the “agreement” between the state government and Tikait. “We are content with Tikaitji’s decision. If he has agreed to send the bodies for post mortem, it must be for the best,” said Gurmeet Singh (46), who had reached Tikunia from a neighbouring tehsil with his 18-year-old son.
Speaking to The Indian Express Monday evening, Chief Medical Officer (Lakhimpur Kheri), Shailendra Bhatnagar, said the post mortem of the four farmers was conducted. “The autopsy of the rest of the bodies is going on. It is being done by a panel of doctors and videographed,” he said.
“No one has been arrested in the case so far and investigation has begun, said ADGP (Law and Order), Prashant Kumar.
According to police, the first FIR was lodged by Bahraich resident Jagjeet Singh, against Ashish Mishra and 15-20 unidentified persons on various charges including murder, rioting, death by negligence and criminal conspiracy.
The second FIR has been lodged by a person identified as Sumit Jaiswal against unidentified miscreants protesting at the site. The case has been lodged on different charges, including murder, voluntarily causing hurt and endangering the life or personal safety of others.