BKU leader Rakesh Tikait, social activist Yogendra Yadav and other leaders Thursday reached Lakhimpur Kheri of Uttar Pradesh as thousands of farmers began their three-day dharna demanding the sacking of Union Minister Ajay Mishra Teni among others.
The farmers holding the dharna under the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM)—an umbrella organisation of farm unions—at Mandi Ground in Lakhimpur Kheri are also demanding the release of the four agriculturalists jailed in connection with the violence in October last year.
Mishra’s son Ashish Mishra is among the accused in the case filed after the violence which took place in the district’s Tikonia area during the protest against the now rescinded farm laws. As many as eight people, including four farmers, were killed when a convoy of vehicles, including one allegedly belonging to Ajay Mishra, ran over them on October 3, 2021. In the ensuing violence, two BJP workers, the driver of one of the vehicles, and a journalist were also killed.
Organisers estimated over 6,000 people, including women, have reached the dharna spot in Lakhimpur Kheri so far as authorities deployed heavy police force at the Mandi Ground to ensure no untoward incident takes place. Farmers in large numbers from neighbouring districts and other states are among them, they added.
BKU (Tikait)’s district president Dilbagh Singh said people are continuously coming to the protest site and their number will double soon.
Sources said most of the farmers who reached Lakhimpur Kheri are from Punjab and Haryana. The food stalls at the protest spot are mostly run by the farmers from those two states, they added.
Farmers claimed they are holding the dharna since despite their demands the government has not sacked Ajay Mishra so far. Moreover, despite promising them that no action will be taken against any farmers in the Tikonia case, the police arrested four of them. “We demand that those four farmers be released because they acted in self-defence as the assailants had come to kill them,” said a farm leader.
They are also demanding that the Yogi Adityanath-led state government must provide jobs to the family members of the victims and financial help to those injured in the Tikonia violence. They also want a law to guarantee Minimum Support Prime (MSP) for crops to protect the interest of farmers.
Farmers are holding the dharna, under tin shades and tents erected on the ground, even though the Lakhimpur Kheri district administration rejected their application seeking permission to hold the protest.
On Thursday morning, District Magistrate Mahendra Bahadur Singh and Superintendent of Police Sanjiv Suman also visited the ground to take stock of the situation. “Our main concern is the security of farmers coming from other states to take part in dharna,” said Singh.
When asked how the farmers are holding their dharna even though the administration denied permission to them, Singh said, “We will seek legal opinion on the matter to move further.”
The administration had rejected permission to the outfit to hold the dharna saying the venue selected by them is a public place and it will create a hindrance for people. Another reason for rejecting the permission was the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, said officials.