*Note: Because the situation unfolds everyday, the information presented in this article is a conclusive account of the events that have transpired up until the early mornings of October 9th, 2021.
On October 3rd, 2021, a polarising nationwide story broke out, reporting violence and massive rioting in the Uttar Pradesh district of Lakhimpur Kheri. Reportedly more than eight individuals were killed in the incident, including four farmers, three BJP members, and freelance journalist Raman Kashyap. Here’s a timeline of what went down behind the public riots of Lakhimpur Kheri.
Prologue: Mass Instigation though Public addressal
A video went viral on social media on Sunday, October 3rd, in which Union Minister of State Ajay Kumar is heard telling the farmers that he would ‘discipline them in two minutes.’The video draws a picture that what happened on Sunday was not an isolated event, but rather a culmination of a series of incidents.
‘I am not only a minister or an MP and MLA… People who know me even before I became a parliamentarian know that I never run away from taking on challenges. The day I accept a challenge, you all will have to leave not only Palia (a local area in the district) but Lakhimpur itself,’ Mishra is heard saying further in the video.
According to reports, Ajay Kumar Mishra’s remarks came after several farmers from the Bhartiya Kisan Union and the Krantikari Kisan union waved black flags at him in Palia, his Kheri Parliamentary seat where he had gone to attend a public assembly late last month. The provocative statement supposedly angered farmers even before Sunday’s violent clashes in the district, and they have been displeased with him since then.
Day of the incident: Deputy CM’s arrival
Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya and MoS (Home) Ajay Kumar Mishra were scheduled to visit Lakhimpur Kheri on Sunday. They were visiting Banbirpur village to inaugurate a few government schemes. In the wake of this, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha had called for a protest and a halt to the convoy of Maurya and Ajay Mishra.
Earlier that day, Deputy CM Maurya was to arrive by helicopter, and the farmers sat on a Dharna near the helipad where he was scheduled to arrive. Hearing about the gheraoed of the helipad due to farmer’s protest led to a subsequent change of travel plans by road. When the farmers learned that Maurya was travelling by road, they staged a protest along a three-kilometre portion of his path. It was here where the violence began resulting in the death of 8 people. With several versions and stories reported, the case has many points of view to be heard.
The prime version:
Farmers from Lakhimpur and neighboring districts in Uttar Pradesh’s Terai area began congregating and parking their tractors at the Tikunia helipad in Lakhimpur. Maurya arrived at Nighasan Guest House but was unable to reach Tikunia, Ajay Misra’s paternal home in Lakhimpur Kheri. He was scheduled to attend an award ceremony for the winners of a wrestling contest conducted on October 2nd, at a Tikunia elementary school.
As the convoy of SUVs carrying the Deputy CM and the union minister crossed Tikonia, one of the cars allegedly mowed down dissidents. According to reports from onlookers and farmers in the area, the SUVs approached at high speeds and slammed the farmers, leading to death and injuries. Ashish Mishra, the son of Ajay Mishra, is accused of running over four farmers while he was present in one of the SUV’s.
Following this, the protestors dragged the BJP employees out of their vans and lynched them. Farmers also reportedly set fire to two SUVs. According to accounts, four of the fatalities were farmers, while the other four were passengers in the car. There have also been some reports that allege that the entire event escalated when Ajay Mishra shot a farmer in the head before running him over.
Another account of this incident claims that farmers began pelting stones at passing cars, causing the vehicles to lose control and inadvertently run them over.
The Suspect’s version:
The Union Minister and his son strongly deny the claim of the farmers. According to them, Ajay Mishra wasn’t at the crime scene but at an inauguration ceremony instead; hence he had no hand in the murders. Ajay Mishra claims to have video evidence to support his claim; however, none have been presented to the public so far.
Earlier on Sunday, PTI quoted Ajay Mishra, who claimed that the farmers pelted their vehicles, which overturned, killing two people. That, according to him, led to the outcry and murder.
On Monday, October 4th, there was a substantial deployment of security in Lakhimpur Kheri, where internet connections were cut off following the incident on Sunday. Normal life was disrupted as well not only in Tikonia, but across the entirety of the Lakhimpur Kheri region. Prohibitory orders have been issued under Section 144 of the CRPC.
Following talks led by the Rakesh Tikait-led group and the state government, a compensation of forty-five lakhs to the next of kin of all farmers who lost their lives and ten lakhs for the injured was passed. UP Police ADG (Law & Order) Prashant Kumar denied any visits to the districts by the leader of the political parties as Section 144 of CRPC is in place.
Several disturbing videos have surfaced online; some showcase victims being attacked by the subversive. In contrast, another showcase protestors are wearing t-shirts with a sketch of the pro-Khalistan leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. Some more showcase vehicles were overturned and set on fire by protesters waving black flags. Another showcase is the protesters beating up two people who fell off a vehicle. None of these videos are concretely verifiable.
Redressal Deployed: Court hearing and Legal Strides so Far
In the first 24 hours after the incident, no legal action was taken against the accused. Following a letter sent to it by two UP-based attorneys, Shiv Kumar Tripathi and C S Panda, the court lodged a PIL relating the Lakhimpur Kheri events on Wednesday. The lawsuit was first filed as a suo motu matter owing to the issue’s gross negligence, but the action was subsequently defined as a miscommunication.
The issue was scheduled for hearing on Friday by a panel led by Chief Justice of India N V Ramana. The Supreme Court, calling the occurrence “unfortunate,” requested a status report from the Uttar Pradesh government on the status of the FIR lodged in the matter and whether any of the accused had been detained yet. Senior lawyer Garima Prashad, who is representing the UP government, stated that the state will file a status report with full facts at hand and action done within a day. The ruling also directed that a family member of the deceased receive immediate medical attention, and was visibly upset over the lapses in police investigation so far.
A new committee composed of eight members of the UP Police Team, and led by a retired judge is also expected to be formed to probe the matter. According to ADG Prashant Kumar, a case has been filed against the perpetrators, and an investigation is underway. Prashad went on to say that a SIT had already been formed and that the entire affair will be thoroughly investigated should the court allow it.
The Uttar Pradesh Police has also called the minister’s son, Ashish Mishra, for interrogation. The police sent a notice outside the Union minister’s residence summoning his son for questioning at 10 a.m. on Friday. Following the court hearing, UP Police issued a new notice to Union MoS Ajay Mishra’s son on Friday, asking him to appear before it by 11 a.m. on Saturday after he missed the deadline on Friday. This is the first time the police have sought to interrogate Ashish Mishra. While a first information report was filed against him on Monday, the police’s inactivity thus far has sparked opposition accusations that the police are sheltering the high-profile offender.
The event has sparked a flurry of political commotion in the run-up to the Assembly election.
Opposition parties from all political stripes blasted the BJP and demanded a judicial probe into the Lakhimpur Kheri tragedy. Opposition parties, including Congress, BSP, and Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party, asked Mr. Mishra to resign immediately, and several politicians sought to visit the region to assess the situation. Congress leaders also urged that the Uttar Pradesh administration file a murder case against Mr. Mishra’s son and all those involved in the event on Sunday. Many of them promised remuneration to the deceased’s families.
Bhartiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait on October 5, Tuesday gave the Uttar Pradesh government a week’s ultimatum for arresting Ashish. Tikait had previously assisted in defusing the situation in Lakhimpur Kheri the day after the event, asking protesting farmers to return home and promising them that justice would be rendered.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath maintained on Friday that no arrests will be made in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence case unless there is evidence of the offense. He also called opposition politicians who are going to meet with bereaved families “no goodwill messengers” and labeled it as a “political stunt.”
Written by Adil Khan and Snehal Srivastava for MTTN
Edited by Avaneesh Jai Damaraju for MTTN
Featured image by Adil Khan for MTTN