The forensic examination of a rifle belonging to Ashish Mishra, son of Union minister Ajay Mishra, has established that the weapon had been discharged, a senior police officer associated with the Lakhimpur Kheri investigation said on Tuesday evening.
However, police said it was not clear when the rifle was fired — whether on October 3, when the incident took place, or on another day.
Ashish Mishra alias Monu is one of the 13 accused facing charges for the killing of four farmers and a journalist in Lakhimpur Kheri in Uttar Pradesh on that day.
All the victims were run over and killed by a convoy of three vehicles including a Mahindra Thar SUV owned by Union minister Ajay Mishra.
Villagers have alleged that shots were fired during the incident. However, autopsies have confirmed that none of the five men — or the three others who were killed in the subsequent violence that day — sustained a gunshot injury.
The Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) examined four weapons belonging to the jailed accused that were seized by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Uttar Pradesh Police that is probing the incident.
Three of these weapons — Ashish’s rifle; a pistol belonging to Ankit Das, a nephew of former Union minister Akhilesh Das; and a repeater gun carried by Das’s bodyguard Lateef — were found to have been discharged.
The report of the forensic examination of the fourth weapon, a revolver owned by Das’s associate Satya Prakash, is still awaited, police sources said.
“Ashish’s rifle was handed over to the SIT by his family. All four seized weapons were sent to the FSL for ballistic examination. We have now received the report, which states that bullets were fired from three weapons, which belong to Ashish, Ankit, and Lateef. We will submit the report to the court as evidence,” the senior police officer said.
The officer added that while the FSL report does not say when the bullets were fired, the accused have to now produce proof that they did not fire the weapons on October 3.
Sources said the forensic examination of a weapon only establishes the presence of gunpowder after it has been fired. However, the report strengthens the allegation by farmers that firing took place at the scene of the incident, police said.
In the FIR, complainant Jagjit Singh had alleged that Ashish Mishra had arrived on the scene in a convoy of three four-wheel vehicles. At Tikonia, the vehicles, travelling at high speed, had ploughed into a group of farmers who were returning from a protest. Ashish, who was sitting on the left in the Thar, had allegedly fired shots as the vehicle ran over the victims.
Ashish, who was arrested on October 10, has denied the allegations. He has claimed that at the time of the incident, he was at a wrestling event in his ancestral village Banveerpur, around 2 km away. Ashish and his co-accused are lodged in the district jail in Lakhimpur Kheri.
Soon after the incident, an enraged mob set fire to the minister’s Thar and a Toyota Fortuner owned by Ankit Das, and beat the driver of the Thar and two local BJP leaders to death. The driver of the third SUV in the convoy, a Mahindra Scorpio, escaped with his vehicle.
The SIT has arrested four individuals for the killings of the Thar’s driver Hari Om Mishra, and the two BJP leaders, Shubham Mishra and Shyam Sunder.
A court in Lakhimpur Kheri on Tuesday sent two of the four arrested men — Ranjit Singh and Avtar Singh — to three days’ police custody remand (PCR) beginning Wednesday.
The SIT had asked for remand in order to question the men and to take them to the spot to recreate the scene of the crime.
Ranjit and Avtar were identified from pictures circulated by police that showed them standing close to people who were allegedly involved in the violence. Ranjit, Avtar, and the two other men who have been arrested — Vichitra Singh and Gurvinder Singh — are all residents of Lakhimpur Kheri.