Lakhimpur Kheri Violence: Eyewitnesses Recount Sunday Horror in UP’s Killing Fields
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New Delhi: Spectators who witnessed the dance of death on the streets of Lakhimpur Kheri district in Uttar Pradesh on Sunday evening ran short of words to describe the horror when a Union minister’s son allegedly mowed down protesting farmers which ensued large-scale violence, leaving nine dead, including four farmers.
Besides the protesting farmers, most of the eye-witnesses say the agitation was “peaceful”. It all happened when the peasants were returning and some of them were shouting slogans intermittently. The protest was against the visit of Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya and Union Minister Ajay Kumar Mishra.
Kulwant Singh, a local farmer, said told Newsclick over the phone that he, along with peasants from Puranpur area, was near the spot at around 3:30 p.m. “Farmers under the aegis of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha were staging a protest at Maharaja Agrasen playground. They were shouting slogans intermittently even while police and administrative officials were asking them to hold a peaceful protest,” he said.
He said suddenly two-three vehicles came in speed and mowed down some farmers standing on the roadside. “Two vehicles turned turtle. I also heard the sound of gunshots. There was chaos all around,” he added.
Another eyewitness alleged the farmers were crushed to death “intentionally”.
“I was standing near the spot where the farmers were mowed down. I saw armed men brandishing weapons in open vehicles approaching the protesters who were raising slogans. Instead of going straight on the main road, they took a slight turn and ran over the farmers with the intention to kill them,” alleged Devendra Singh, district president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union Mahashakti.
The protest was “peaceful”, said Puranpur resident Gurpreet Singh, claiming that none of the farmers were occupying the road. “After staging the protest, the peasants were returning. Suddenly, a fleet of vehicles ran them over. That led to a stampede-like situation. I still shudder to think of the horrific scene, which was also witnessed by the police officials deployed there,” he added.
Dilbag Singh, a farmer belonging to Puranpur, also claimed to have seen the entire turn of events. Farmers, according to him, were about to return as their agitation was almost over. Sensing the brewing tension and discontent among farmers, the district administration had already changed the route of the political leaders.
“I was standing roughly at a distance of 100 metres from the scene of crime. Despite route diversion, I saw three luxury vehicles approaching us. When these vehicles suddenly took slight turns and mowed down farmers who were standing on the roadside, those who were unhurt jumped in the field and drain to save their lives,” he recounted.
Deceased farmer Daljit Singh’s son levelled serious allegations against the police. He said heavy police force was deployed at the spot, but they did not intervene and instead “helped” Ashish Mishra Teni (son of Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay Mishra Teni) escape from there.
“Farmers were mowed down, gunshots were fired. All this happened before the police, which chose to remain a mute spectator. They even gave a safe passage to the real culprit,” he alleged.
The Tikunia police in Lakhimpur Kheri has lodged an FIR against the minister’s son and 15 others for murder and inciting violence in Lakhimpur Kheri. The FIR states that when farmers were returning after registering their protest against the deputy chief minister’s visit, they were hit by vehicles from behind.
Ashish Mishra came with three vehicles around that time, and was leading the convoy in a Mahindra Thar SUV, it is alleged. All the vehicles allegedly ran over the farmers standing on the roadside without any provocation. As four-five farmers fell to the ground in a pool of blood, their companions were enraged and allegedly resorted to stone pelting, beating the attackers with sticks, breaking their vehicles and setting them on fire.
When a few farmers caught Teni from behind, says the FIR, he took out his pistol and fired several rounds to save himself from being thrashed and even lynched. One of the bullets hit a farmer named Guru Dakshin in his head, and he died on the spot.
Flanked by a few of his supporters, Teni somehow managed to escape from there.
Contrary to the MoS Ajay Kumar Mishra’s claim that his son was not at the spot, a local intelligence official said the minister’s son was in the convoy. “In fact, he himself was driving his Mahindra Thar. He managed to get a passage to escape. After running some distance, he took a lift on a motorbike, which dropped him to his residence,” he told Newsclick over the phone.
As Mishra’s son reached his residence safely, eyewitnesses alleged, heavy police force was deployed there to ensure his safety.
Farmer Leaders Reach Truce
Meanwhile, farmer leaders and the state government reached a truce after the latter agreed to pay Rs 45 lakh ex gratia for the kin of each deceased and Rs 10 lakh each for the injured.
Appearing before the media following talks with farmer representatives, UP Additional Director General (Law and Order) Prashant Kumar along with BKU’s National Spokesperson Rakesh Tikait said the state government had decided to agree to their demands.
“The kin of the deceased will be given an ex gratia of Rs 45 lakh and a government job. Each injured person will be given Rs 10 lakh. FIRs under relevant Sections will be lodged, as demanded by the farmers. The incident will be probed by a retired High Court judge and the perpetrators caught within eight days,” Kumar told the media.
Asked specifically about the arrest of the minister’s son, he said “strict action will be taken against those found guilty”.
Meanwhile, the entire Opposition has thrown its weight behind the farmers with leaders of all hues trying to reach the violence-hit village. The state police did not allow entry to anyone, stating that the area was under Section 144. Internet services have been suspended by the district administration.
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