Lakhimpur violence: Congress delegation meets families after visit furore
Lakhimpur Kheri When a Congress delegation led by Rahul Gandhi walked into Tikunia village on Wednesday evening, they found a region simmering with tension and anger over the deaths of eight people in violence three days ago.
Throughout the day, farm groups protested against Union minister of state for home, Ajay Mishra Teni, who owned the car that allegedly mowed down four farmers on Sunday, and his son Ashish Mishra, who was booked for murder and criminal conspiracy.
“It has been three days but the state government failed to arrest Ashish Mishra, who is the main accused in the killing of innocent farmers,” said Mandeep Singh, son of Nachhatar Singh, a 50-year-old farmer killed in Sunday’s violence.
Minister Mishra and his son deny the charges and say they weren’t even at the spot on Sunday. They blame farmers for the violence and say protesters lynched two BJP workers and a driver. A local journalist also died in the violence.
After heated altercations with Uttar Pradesh forces in the morning and afternoon, Rahul Gandhi and the Congress delegation reached the village.
He was accompanied by Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who was in detention for trying to reach Lakhimpur Kheri, Punjab chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi, his Chhattisgarh counterpart Bhupesh Baghel and party general secretaries KC Venugopal and Randeep Surjewala. Also in the delegation were senior leaders Deepender Hooda and Ajay Kumar ‘Lallu’.
They met the families of the deceased farmers and the journalist, hugging the next of kin and expressing their support. “Shared grief with the family of Lovepreet. But until justice is not done, this satyagraha will continue,” tweeted Rahul Gandhi.
Their first stop was home of deceased farmer Lovepreet Singh, 18, in Palia tehsil. From there, they left for the house of journalist Raman Kashyap, AGE, in Nighasan tehsil. Then, the delegation proceeded to the home of Nachatar Singh in Dhauraha tehsil.
Palia is about 80 km from Lakhimpur town, and Nighasan is another 15-20 km and Dhauraha is a further 60-70 km from there. Lakhimpur Kheri is around 225 km from state capital Lucknow.
Senior Congress leader Sachin Pilot was detained around Moradabad. “We have broken no law, we were merely going to meet the families of the farmer victims and the intention was to bring peace and calm in the area,” he said.
The Bharatiya Janata Party condemned the Opposition. “Rahul Gandhi must have been very young when in independent India’s history mass killings of Sikhs took place with a Congress government at the helm. The same government sat through emergency. So, all this fake talk of showing solidarity with Sikh farmers won’t cut much ice,” BJP leader Sidharth Nath Singh said.
The farmers had gathered on Sunday to protest UP deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya and laid siege to the helipad, leading to cancellation of the meeting. As farmers returned from the protest site, a speeding convoy of three ripped through the crowd around 2.30pm, protesters said. It had a Mahindra Thar in the lead, a Fortuner, and a smaller car, as mentioned in the case FIR registered by local police.
In the village, internet services continued to be suspended after being briefly restored on Tuesday evening.
“I still remember the loud noise of the engine of the SUV that hit me from behind,” said Shamsher Singh, 28, an injured farmer. He said he was injured by the car leading the convoy.
“I jumped to one side, but my right leg came under the left front wheel of the vehicle. I lost consciousness after the incident,” he added.
Dr CS Singh, chief medical superintendent of the hospital, said Shamsher Singh’s lower right leg was fractured at three places. “We have put a temporary plaster, but he may need surgery to correct the alignment of the broken bones,” said the doctor.
The kin of some other injured people blamed the farmers for the violence. Shekhar Bharti was in one of the three cars but was attacked by the protesters, said his uncle Dinesh Bharti. “The miscreants among the farmers attacked Shekhar with sticks and swords, but he somehow managed to escape from the spot,” Dinesh Bharti said.