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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Priyanka arrested, Baghel ‘stopped’ at airport: Political faultlines sharpen over Lakhimpur Kheri deaths

While Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot alleged that ‘democracy under threat’, his Punjab conterpart Charanjit Singh Channi said that the Lakhimpur Kheri incident ‘reminded of Jallianwala Bagh’.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: October 5, 2021 10:38:30 pm
Lakhimpur KheriPeople take a look at the overturned SUV which destroyed in the violence during farmers' protest, at Tikonia area of Lakhimpur Kheri district. (PTI)

Political faultlines sharpened and the blame game accentuated on Tuesday following the Lakhimpur Kheri incident—where eight people died after a car owned by Union MoS Home Ajay Mishra Teni allegedly ran over protesting farmers, triggering a clash— with senior Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi being arrested and Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel being reportedly stopped from leaving the Lucknow airport.

Other than Priyanka Gandhi, those arrested include Congress leader Deepender Singh Hooda, UP Congress state president Ajay Kumar Lallu and party MLC Deepak Singh. The arrest has been made under section 151 (arrest to prevent the commission of cognizable offences) of the CrPC.

“Total 11 persons have been arrested by us. On Monday around 4.30 am, Priyanka ji was stopped while on her way to Lakhimpur Kheri. We told her that you should not go there as the situation is not fine and Section 144 CrPC is in effect. She did not listen to us and in proper security presence, we had to take her to a local guest house,” said Hargaon station house officer (SHO) Brijesh Kumar Tripathi, adding that further course of action will be decided by senior officials.

Earlier in the day, Priyanka issued a video statement addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is on a Lucknow visit, and asked if he had seen a video purportedly of the Lakhimpur incident. She then played the video, which shows what appears to be a Mahindra Thar coming from behind and running over a group of protestors walking on a road.

Later in the day, Priyanka spoke to the kin of farmers and the journalist killed in the Lakhimpur violence over the phone from the Sitapur guest house, where she has been detained, a party leader said on Tuesday. Congress leader Lalan Kumar said she talked to the kin of farmers Lavpreet Singh, Nakshatra Singh and journalist Rajat Kashyap, extending her condolences. Congress workers had gone to villages of the farmers to ensure that she talks to the victim families, he said.

Meanwhile, Baghel was stopped from leaving the Lucknow airport Tuesday. In a video he shared on Twitter, Baghel can be seen sitting down at the airport to protest being stopped from leaving the premises, claiming he is not going to visit Lakhimpur Kheri, where eight people died after a car linked to Union MoS Home, Ajay Mishra Teni, allegedly ran over protesting farmers, triggering clashes.

Baghel Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel sat down in protest after he was reportedly not allowed to leave the Lucknow airport. (Twitter/@bhupeshbaghel)

On Monday, Baghel had hit out at the Uttar Pradesh government for not letting him land in Lucknow. “The government of Uttar Pradesh is issuing a decree not to allow me to come to the state. Have civil rights been suspended in Uttar Pradesh? If Section 144 is in Lakhimpur, then why is the dictatorial government stopping you from landing in Lucknow?” he asked in a tweet in Hindi.

Later, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, Bahujan Samaj Party leader Satish Chandra Mishra and Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad were also stopped from visiting Lakhimpur Kheri.

Meanwhile, Congress Tuesday said Rahul Gandhi will lead a five-member party delegation to Lakhimpur Kheri on Wednesday, and asked Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to allow the visit.

All India Congress Committee General Secretary KC Venugopal said in his letter to Adityanath that a five-member delegation led by Rahul Gandhi proposes to visit Lakhimpur Kheri on October 6 to express condolences to the bereaved families and to ascertain the facts first hand.

The Congress has told the chief minister that the UP government has allowed leaders of other political parties from Uttar Pradesh as well as West Bengal to visit Lakhimpur Kheri, but not their party leaders.

The Congress delegation may be allowed to visit Lakhimpur Kheri in the same spirit, he said.

Ashish Mishra mowed down farmers, opened fire at them, says FIR

An FIR lodged by the Uttar Pradesh Police stated that Ashish Mishra alias Monu, the son of Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra Teni, was sitting in the car that mowed down protesting farmers and he also opened fire at them.

According to the first information report (FIR) lodged on a complaint of Jagjit Singh, a native of Bahraich district, the episode was “premeditated” for which the “conspiracy was hatched” by the minister and his son.

It also alleged that “provocative” statements of the Union minister of state for home had led to the farmers’ protest here during which violence erupted and claimed the lives of eight people.

The FIR stated that the farmers had gathered at the sports ground of the Maharaja Agrasen Inter-College on Sunday and they wanted to peacefully show black flags to Mishra and Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya, who was visiting Banbirpur.

“Around 3 pm, Ashish Mishra along with 15-20 armed men in three speeding four-wheelers reached the protest spot in Banbirpur. Monu Mishra opened gunfire while he was seated on the left side of his Mahindra Thar, which mowed down the crowd and sped ahead,” stated the FIR seen by PTI.

“Because of the firing, farmer Gurvinder Singh, son of Sukhwinder, resident of Matronia in Nanpara, died. The numbers of the speeding vehicles which cruelly crushed the farmers standing on both sides of the roads are UP 31 AS 1000 and UP 32 KM 0036, while the third vehicle (whose number is not confirmed) was a Mahindra Scorpio,” it added.

The report further stated, “Ashish’s speeding vehicle overturned on the side of the road, leading to injuries to several other people. Ashish Mishra escaped from the car, opened fire and hid in a sugarcane field.”

However, Ajay Mishra stated that they have evidence proving that neither him nor his son, Ashish Mishra, was present at the spot in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri.

Mishra added that they are ready to face any investigating agency. “Culprits, who have planned this incident won’t be spared,” he was quoted as saying by ANI.

Speaking in his son’s defence, the MoS added, “We aren’t aware of how the incident happened. Based on information and videos, it’s visible that the driver was killed after being pulled out of the car. If it were my son, he’d have been dead. It’s impossible to get out of a place where a car ran over people amid a gathering of thousands.”

Mortal remains of three farmers cremated

The mortal remains of three of the farmers, who were mowed down by a vehicle during a protest in Lakhimpur Kheri, were cremated at their native places on Tuesday, while the family of the fourth one demanded a second post-mortem.

Bahraich Additional Superintendent of Police (Rural) Ashok Kumar said that “a decision on the demand for a second post mortem could be taken only by senior officials”.

Among the farmers killed in the Sunday incident, two each were from Lakhimpur Kheri and Bahraich and their bodies were handed over to their families after a post mortem on Monday.

The families of Lavpreet Singh (19),  Nachattar Singh (65)and Daljeet  Singh (42) agreed to the cremation after hours of negotiations involving police officials and farmer leader Rakesh Tikait.

Tikait was present when Satnam Singh performed the last rites of his son Lavpreet Singh in the family’s agricultural field in Palia tehsil in Lakhimpur Kheri late in the afternoon.

But the family of Gurvinder Singh (22) of Matera tehsil refused to cremate him till a second autopsy is done and alleged that he was shot dead.

Opposition leaders slam BJP

As the events of the day unfolded, bitter recriminations came in from opposition leaders.

Addressing a dharna, Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot said, “Democracy is under threat…The situation is dreadful. What happened in Lakhimpur Kheri is not a small thing; this has shaken the whole country.”

Punjab CM Charanjit Singh Channi, who along with some ministers and Congress legislators, held a silent protest at Gandhi Smarak Bhawan, said the violence in Lakhimpur Kheri reminds him of the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh tragedy. Later in the day, Channi met Amit Shah, after which he said he had asked the Union Home Minister to take steps to repeal the farm laws.

Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu has warned that the party’s state unit will march towards UP’s Lakhimpur Kheri if their leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is not released by Wednesday and Union minister Ajay Mishra’s son not held for the murder of farmers.

“If, by tomorrow, the Union Minister’s son behind the brutal murder of farmers is not arrested, and our leader @PriyankaGandhi being unlawfully arrested, fighting for farmers is not released, the Punjab Congress will march towards Lakhimpur Kheri!” tweeted Sidhu.

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MP Sanjay Singh on Tuesday urged PM Modi to visit Lakhimpur Kheri and meet the family members of the farmers who have been killed.

“I would urge you with folded hands that in this great hour of grief and sorrow, you should change your intention of organising any festival and visit Lakhimpur Kheri with the leaders of all the parties to meet family members of the farmers who were brutally crushed under the car of your minister and murdered for no reason,” Singh said in his letter.

NCP supremo Sharad Pawar warned the BJP on Tuesday that it will have to pay a heavy price for the Lakhimpur Kheri incident and asserted that the entire opposition is with the farmers.

Describing the violence as an “attack on farmers”, Pawar, a former Union Agriculture Minister, said its responsibility lies with the BJP governments at the Centre and in Uttar Pradesh and the “people will show them their place”.

“Whether it is government at the Centre or in Uttar Pradesh, they are not sensitive at all. The kind of situation that was created in Jallianwala Bagh, we are witnessing a similar situation in Uttar Pradesh. Today or tomorrow, they will have to pay a heavy price for it,” he told reporters here, joining the chorus of criticism over the Sunday incident in which eight persons were killed.

Senior farmer leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni Tuesday demanded that all farmer leaders should be allowed to visit Lakhimpur Kheri while expressing reservations over attempts to deny movement to the area.

“It’s wrong that the farmer leaders are not being allowed to move to Lakhimpur. It seems there are attempts to suppress and hide something,” Chaduni told The Indian Express.

(With ENS & PTI inputs)

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