Tikonia (Lakhimpur Kheri): Paramjit Kaur who bid her husband Dalijit bye on Sunday, did not know that it would be their last meeting.
Daljit Singh, a native of Banjaran Tanda was one of the four farmers who was mowed down by the car allegedly driven by Union minister of State for Home, Ajay Mishra Teni’s son.
In the past 24 hours since his death, Paramjit is in utter shock and has not spoken anything but keeps calling out her husband’s name time and again.
‘Roti de ke bheja tha, kya pata ab roti nahi kha payega, hume kaun palega ab, ek wahi kamane wala tha’ (Had bid him goodbye with a box of food, I didn't know he won’t be able to eat anymore. Who will feed us now? He was the sole breadwinner), a distraught Kaur told Newsclick and fainted.
Parnjit Kaur (13) and Rajdeep Singh (17), Daljit’s children console their mother and asked her to be brave.
‘Minister's son, a murderer of farmers’
Rajdeep says he had come with his father, along with 20-30 people from Nanpara, by motorcycle to Tikonia, about 120 km from their home, to join the farmers’ protest.
“Everyone was protesting, when all of sudden, there was chaos. By the time Papa could understand anything, three vehicles coming from behind trampled and left. My father was crying in front of my eyes, but I could not do anything. I was screaming, crying. In no time, he stopped breathing,” the son of deceased Daljit said, demanding a judicial inquiry into the death of his father.
He accused the MoS’s son Asish Mishra for the incident, saying it he who had brought three three vehicles in which he himself was traveling. “He crushed everyone deliberately and my father died due to it. He also fired bullets in the gathering,” Daljit’s son alleged.
Family members of Gurvinder Singh, a native of Nabi Nagar, Moharnia, in Nanpara were seen clinging on to the body of Singh and helplessly weeping. They had rushed to Tikonia after getting news of Gurvinder’s injuries. By the time they could reach the spot, Singh, a small peasant, had succumbed to his injuries.
Gurvinder’s cousin Puran Singh said, “He was a saint and suddenly became a victim of the incident. If we had an iota of inkling that the protest against farm laws would cost his life or small outrages of farmers would turn violent on such a large scale, we would have never allowed him to be part of the protest,” Puran told Newsclick, accusing the current regime in Uttar Pradesh for “poor law and order”.
“Resistance against three agri laws is not new, it is happening across the nation but since the current regime is losing its ground ahead of the Assembly polls, they are targeting farmers and have even moved ahead one step this time, and started killing innocent farmers,” Singh added, while breaking down.
According to Puran, Gurvinder had gone to Lakhimpur on Sunday to meet one of his relatives and got caught in the agitation. “When people around us told us about the violence, we called our relatives there, but they told us that he did not reach the protest site. His cellphone was switched off. Gurvinder's death was reported late in the night. I wish he had he not gone there,” he said.
Next to Daljit’s body lay that of Nachattar Singh, who hails from Dhauraha in Lakhimpur. His son Mandeep who is posted as an SSB jawan in Almora reached Tikonia early morning on Monday. Like others, Mandeep too held the BJP MP’s son accountable and accused the police of helping him ‘escape’ from the spot.
Meanwhile, another injured farmer who is battling for his life at community health centre (CHC) in Tikonia, also lost his 20-year-old nephew Lovepreet Singh, a native of Chauktha Farm. Lakhimpur Kheri’s Majhgai told Newsclick, “I jumped from the road and managed to get out of the way but my nephew Lovepreet couldn’t. He died in front of my eyes. The vehicle ran over him. Even after that, the minister’s son Ashish (Monu) stepped out, pistol in hand, opened fire and managed to escape with the help of cops,” he alleged.
Accusing the minister’s son, he said that Monu arrived in a vehicle followed by two other SUVs. “When farmers waved black flags at him, his car sped up and deliberately ran over the farmers. Many of us jumped out of his path out of fear but a few, including my nephew, got under the car,” he added.
Jagdeep Singh, a young farmer who travelled from Shahjahanpur was spotted sitting around the corpses, paying tribute to the those died.
“Around 45 vehicles from my district came here to pay tribute to the bereaved. We came here as farmers and are being lynched by government representatives. We can’t wait for our turn to die. This battle has become so personal now,” Ranjeet told Newsclick, adding that “it is a sad state of affairs that in a country where nearly 70% of Indians are farmers, a leader says he will ‘fix’ farmers and no action is taken against him.” ( referring to MoS Mishra’s video)
The families of farmers are full of anger against the regime along with a deep sense of loss and grief.
HOW THE SITUATION UNFOLDED
Until Sunday morning, Banbirpur under Tikonia police station, a small village which falls under Lakhimpur Kheri district headquarter and very close to the India-Nepal border, was peaceful. But, in the afternoon, the village witnessed a bloodbath where at least eight people, including four farmers and a journalist were killed and over 13 others were severely injured after a convoy of three SUVs, including one owned by Union Minister of State for Home and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Ajay Mishra Teni, hit a group of farm protesters.
Thousands of farmers of Lakhimpur Kheri and adjoining districts — Shahjahanpur, Pilibhit, Bahraich, and Sitapur had gathered with black flags to gherao the helipad at Maharaja Agrasen ground in Tikonia, 75 km from district headquarter, to prevent Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya from landing. The incident allegedly took place as the farmers were dispersing from the protest site when all of sudden, three cars in the convoy of Mishra ran over the famers, alleged Gurmeet Singh Virk, a farmer who was leading the protest.
Speaking with Newsclick, Virk said violence and arson broke out minutes ahead of Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya’s visit to Banbirpur, the native village of Ajay Mishra Teni. The farmers were agitating against new farm laws and had blocked the road to oppose the deputy CM’s visit. They were infuriated after three SUVs reportedly belonging to Mishra hit a group of farmers, leaving a number of them injured.
“The incident occurred after farmers gathered along Tikonia-Banbirpur road to protest the visit of Maurya and open threat to the farmers by BJP MP. The protesters had gathered at the helipad where the deputy CM was to arrive. They later dispersed after police officials informed them that he will not land and had taken another route. Meanwhile, the son and brother along with his driver came to the spot in speeding vehicles. They fired and ran over some farmers,” Virk alleged.
In a purported video which has been doing rounds on social media, Mishra is heard threatening to the farmers, with the reference to the ongoing protest in the district, “Come and face me otherwise I will fix you in two minutes. You will have to leave Lakhimpur Kheri,” he has said in the video.
He went on to add, “I am not only a minister or an MLA and MP. Those who know me before I became a legislator would also know me that I do not run away from any challenge.”
Newsclick spoke to dozens of locals and eye witnesses who claimed the incident was “pre-planned” as the minister’s SUV was full with sticks, rods and weapons.
An eyewitness, Paurndeep Singh, alleged that minister’s son Ashish tried to flee after his vehicle was overturned. He shot dead one farmer who tried to catch him after he fell on the ground and tried to escape from the spot. He continuously fired multiple rounds in the air to keep farmers away and police rescued him, he alleged.
“Monu claimed he didn’t come on the spot as he was busy with some ancestral function at village. Everyone of the village saw him brandishing pistol. He had come with the intention of killing, otherwise his car would not have been full of iron rods nor he would have driven the car at full speed on a narrow road which was full of farmers and people,” he alleged.
Meanwhile, slippers and broken spectacles were scattered on the roads. Villagers claimed after car was rammed on the farmers, there was a stampede. Farmers tried to save their lives and ran wherever they found empty space. Due to this, someone's glasses broke and fell on the ground, while someone's slippers were broken. Two vehicles belonging to the convoy of minister were set on fire.
‘COMPENSATION CANNOT BRING DEAD’
Family members of the four who died kept the dead bodies in mortuary freezer box for several hours in middle of the road, and said they won’t move an inch from the site and would not carry out the last rites until stringent action was taken against minister’s son.
However, Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) prominent leader Rakesh Tikait who reached on Sunday hold at least five rounds of talks with Uttar Pradesh ADG (Law and Order) Prashant Kumar and Kheri district administration. It was announced in the meeting that Rs 45 lakh and a government job to four farmers who were killed during the incident. While the government would provide Rs 10 lakh to those injured in the violence and retired High Court judge will probe the incident.
After the decision, the family members allowed the dead bodies of the victims to be sent for post-mortem examination.
“Rs 45 lakh and a government job can’t bring those died in broad day light but a kind of relief for the victim families in terms of finance. If the government fails to arrest the accused in 10 days of his funeral rituals, a massive panchayat will be held,” Tikait said.
The BKU leader ensured the gathering that Mishra will lose his ministerial post and son to face legal action.
The victim family members said: “We are not here for any bargaining but we want the minister and his accused son to be sent behind bars immediately. If this is not done soon, we will come on roads,” Rajdeep, a deceased farmer’s son said.
Furthermore, a local journalist Raman Kashyap was missing ever since he had gone for reporting of farmers’ protest. Anxiety gripped the family and his wife when there was no information whereabouts of Raman. Ram Lakhan Kashyap, his uncle, told Newsclick that his body was found in the mortuary on Monday morning. He was severely injured and succumbed during treatment.
“My nephew was crushed by a car during stampede. I don’t know whether it was MP’s son car or farmer, but he died after a vehicle crushed him. He left two small children and wife behind,” said Ram Lakhan.