After nine people were killed during a 'farmers’ protest' yesterday in Lakhimpur Kheri in the poll-bound state of Uttar Pradesh (UP), the district continues to be in the eye of a huge political storm.
Yesterday, a convoy of three SUVs, including one owned by Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra Teni, hit a group of farm protesters. The week-long farmer protests in Lakhimpur began over a comment by Teni on 25 September. On Sunday, Teni was on his way to his village after a programme of UP Deputy CM Keshav Maurya in Lakhimpur city.
The farmers allege that a convoy vehicle ran over two farm protesters, after which angry protesters retaliated. They say that it was the minister's son who was driving the said vehicle. Two SUVs were set on fire by angry farmers in the clash near Banbirpur.
The minister, in response, said that his son was not even present at the spot; and it was the farmers who pelted stones at his vehicle, causing the driver to be grievously injured, after which, the vehicle overturned, killing two farmers. The incident left four farm protesters dead. Four persons belonging to the convoy also lost their lives. The death toll reached nine after a journalist Raman Kashyap, missing since yesterday, succumbed to injuries today. Among the dead are Teni’s driver and three BJP workers who were allegedly lynched to death.
Teni said, "BJP workers were attacked and killed with sticks and swords. Videos show some attackers asked our workers to say that I had asked them to mow down farmers. Allegations against my son are totally baseless. Had he been there, he would have been killed." He demanded that the matter be investigated by CBI, SIT or by a sitting/retired judge.
Teni himself belongs to a farmer family from Lakhimpur Kheri, the district he represents in Lok Sabha, and has been reportedly associated with rural issues in his political career.
After the incident, internet services were shut in Lakhimpur and borders around Lucknow were also sealed on all the roads leading to Lakhimpur. Section 144 of CrPC has been imposed and the Home ministry ordered the deployment of two companies each of RAF and SSB till 6 October.
The Opposition quickly latched onto the incident with several leaders including a delegation of the Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi party leader Akhilesh Yadav, BKU leader Rakesh Tikait, and Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel, Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi deciding to visit the district today. Aam Aadmi Party also announced that a delegation led by Punjab Leader of Opposition Harpal Singh Cheema along with Raghav Chadha, Kultar Sandhwa and Baljinder Kaur will leave for Lakhimpur Kheri today. AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi says he will also visit Lakhimpur Kheri to show solidarity.
ADG (Law & Order) Prashant Kumar in Lakhimpur Kheri said that due to the Section 144 being in place, the political leaders were not allowed to visit the district, however, members of farmer unions could visit.
Lucknow Police took Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav into custody outside his residence where he staged a sit-in protest after being stopped from going to Lakhimpur Kheri. Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (Lohia) leader Shivpal Singh Yadav, who was on his way to Lakhimpur Kheri, detained by Lucknow Police at Engineering College Chauraha.
The Uttar Pradesh government has also requested the Lucknow airport authority not to allow the arrival of Congress leaders Bhupesh Baghel and Sukhjinder S Randhawa. Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra who left for UP yesterday, was put under house arrest by Sitapur police today. Congress leaders Pramod Tiwari, Salman Khursheed and Aradhna Mishra have also been put under house arrest.
The Uttar Pradesh government today announced that a retired High Court judge will probe the Lakhimpur Kheri violence and that it will give Rs 45 lakh compensation to the families of the four farmers killed in the incident. Additional Chief Secretary, Home, Awanish Awasthi said:
“An agreement has been reached with the farmers. The government will give Rs 45 lakh to the family members of the four farmers who were killed in the violence on Sunday. Besides, one member from their families will be given a government job at the local level. The government will give Rs 10 lakh to the injured and get the incident probed by a retired High Court judge."
After the Lakhimpur incident, protests have broken out in different parts of the country, including Ludhiana, Punjab and Delhi. The Bharatiya Kisan Union on Sunday convened an urgent panchayat and decided to stage a protest in every district across the country.
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