Lakhimpur Kheri: Farmers' Agitation ‘Not Dead’, SKM Reiterates Demand For Sacking Union Minister Teni
Lakhimpur/Lucknow: Buses and tractor trolleys were lined up on all roads leading to Lakhimpur Kheri, Uttar Pradesh, where thousands of farmers from several states had come to participate in one of the largest gatherings of its kind to build up further pressure on the Central government on their demand for dismissal of Union Minister of State (MoS) in Home Ministry Ajay Mishra Teni. The minister’s son, Ashish Mishra, is accused of mowing down farmers protesting against the now-repealed Central farm laws in Tikonia in October last year.
The 72-hour-long 'mahapadav' (mammoth sit-in) has farmers from across the country, including Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, which included not just farmers but people from all trades in rural areas.
Tents have been set up across the road from the Rajapur Mandi Samiti, where leaders address the crowd. A langar (community kitchen) has also been started to feed the protestors, with tea, biscuits, fruits and snacks doing the rounds on Thursday evening. Food and lodging arrangements will also be made in the adjoining district of Sitapur.
‘DISMISS AJAY MISHRA, WITHDRAW CASES AGAINST FARMERS’
Farmers are sticking to their first and major point - that Lakhimpur where, on October 3, 2020, four farmers and a journalist were killed in what has since been described as a ‘planned conspiracy’ by the special team investigating it. The prime accused in the case is the son of the Minister of State for Home Affairs, Ajay Misra ‘Teni’.
Farmer leaders made it clear that they would extend their 72-hour-long 'mahapadav', if Teni was not stripped of his ministerial post and sent to jail immediately. The SKM, an umbrella body of at least 42 farmers’ organisations threatened to continue the agitation till the 2024 Lok Sabha poll. “More than 7,000 farmers from across the country have reached Lakhimpur till 5 p.m today and the number is expected to cross 20,000 till Saturday. We have appealed to farmers to throng Lakhimpur in large numbers, and also to protest in their own districts. Let us raise our voice so it reaches the ears of those sitting in Parliament, and realise that the farmers' agitation is not dead,” Darshan Pal, a member of the SKM’s central coordination committee, told NewsClick.
Bhartiya Kisan Union-Tikait leader Rakesh Tikait was among those in Lakhimpur Kheri for the sit-in protest, which is being held amid tight security arrangements. He, too, reiterated the demand for Union minister Teni’s dismissal. He said the sit-in will conclude on Saturday and that the farmers will chalk out their strategy to press for their pending demands, including action against Teni, withdrawal of the Electricity Bill and a law guaranteeing minimum support prices.
Farmer leaders claimed they were holding the dharna since despite their demand the government has not sacked Ajay Mishra so far. Moreover, despite promising them that no action will be taken against any farmer 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.
The SKM leaders said the aim of the three-day sit-in was to expose the hollowness of the promises made by the government after the Kheri violence, none of which has been fulfilled so far.
Another demand is to withdraw the cases lodged against farmers and to release those who had been jailed after the Lakhimpur incident. The families of the farmers and the journalist who lost their lives in the violence are still awaiting compensation from the government. The government had announced a compensation of Rs 45 lakh for the dead, and Rs 10 lakh for the injured.
"Among the promises made by the government were that all cases lodged against protestors would be taken back, families of those who died and were injured during the agitation will get financial compensation, farmers will be kept out of the ambit of the Electricity Bill," said Yogendra Yadav of Swaraj Abhiyan.
The other demands include implementation of the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission on MSP (minimum support price) and the disbanding of the committee which is currently debating the MSP issue.
Another important demand is that debts of farmers throughout the country be waived. In UP, an appeal will also be made to the government to immediately pay all arrears to sugarcane farmers.
The farmers' union also demanded to stop giving eviction notices to farmers who have come from different provinces of the country to Lakhimpur after populating the forest for years.
It may be recalled that eight people died in Lakhimpur Kheri on October 3, 2021. After four farmers and a journalist were crushed by the convoy of Union Minister’s Teni’s son Ashish Mishra, three more, including Bharatiya Janata Party workers, were killed in the violence that broke out later.
The Special Investigation Team (SIT) formed by the government had arrested 13 people, including Ashish Mishra, for allegedly killing the farmers and a journalist. In January this year, the SIT filed a charge sheet against 14 persons, including Mishra and his uncle, Virendra Shukla. Except for Shukla, all the accused are lodged in jail.
Four people have been charge-sheeted in the murder case of BJP leaders and the driver of the Thar vehicle that mowed down the farmers.
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