Lucknow: The delay in action against Union Minister of State (MoS) Ajay Mishra, whose convoy had allegedly run farmers at Banbirpur in Tikonia village, Lakhimpur Kheri district during a black flag protest, has outraged thousands of farmers, who on Saturday took out a protest march in Uttar Pradesh against the BJP government and burnt effigies of its leaders on Dussehra.
The farmer outfits burnt multi-headed Ravana-like effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, pinned with faces of Home Minister Amit Shah and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath under a national call given by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), a national-level collective of farmer unions.
The effigies read out in Hindi: “I am Narendra Modi, I am anti-farmer.” As it burnt, slogans were raised against the government, demanding the repeal of three contentious farm laws and a law guaranteeing Minimum Support Price (MSP).
Members of farmer unions in several parts of western Uttar Pradesh and Awadh region carried placards demanding the resignation of MoS Mishra, whose son Ashish Mishra allegedly mowed down farmers in Uttar Pradesh's Lakhimpur Kheri on October 3, leaving four of them dead.
“Keeping up with the spirit of the festival—the victory of good over evil—we burnt effigies that symbolised BJP, PM Modi and CM Yogi as evil. The reason behind this is that both Central and State governments have forgotten all democratic values and are working to benefit select corporates while they act against farmers,” Narendra Malik, a farmer leader of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) told Newsclick.
Voicing dissatisfaction over the probe into the Lakhimpur Kheri violence, Mukut Singh, UP state secretary of All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) said, “the farmers’ agitation will get stronger, and their voice louder till MoS Ajay Mishra is sacked from his post and arrested. We will not let the farmers’ sacrifice go to waste,” Singh told Newsclick, adding that “Yogi government’s hatred for farmers is evident. Whenever they raise their voices, either police opens fire on them or they are put under house arrest. Even their leaders are trampled under vehicles.”
Meanwhile, to prevent farmers from burning effigies, more than 100 farmers leaders have been allegedly put under house arrest in Meerut, Bulandshahr, Aligarh, Agra, Etawah, Rampur, Sitapur and other districts.
Choudhary Savit Malik, president of Kisan Union, who claimed to be put under house arrest ahead of SKM’s call to burn effigies, claimed that dictatorship, not democracy prevailed in the country, with farmers being “systematically attacked” by the state.
“Ajay Mishra was responsible behind the conspiracy to eliminate farmers at Lakhimpur. He gave a provocative speech that incited violence against farmers. But instead of taking action against him, the Yogi government put farm leaders on house arrest and implicated false cases against them,” said Malik.
In Hastinapur, adjacent to Meerut, officials of the Bharatiya Kisan Union tried to burn an effigy of the Central government on Saturday. However, the police reached the spot and snatched the effigy from BKU workers. During this, BKU workers also had a heated argument with the police. Nearly a dozen farmers were put under house arrest.
Farmer unions said that almost every prominent leader in the state was put under house arrest by the UP administration to thwart any plans of effigy burning.
Meanwhile, members of the Socialist Party (India) led by general secretary Sandeep Pandey on Friday were detained by the police when they had gathered near Shaheed Smarak in Lucknow to burn the effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah in the wake of Lakhimpur Kheri violence.
“As soon as we reached Shaheed Smarak and were about to climb the stairs for the event, a group of police landed at the spot and stopped us from proceeding further. We were protesting in a democratic manner on the call of SKM, and still, the police detained us,” said Pandey.
In Sitapur and Bahraich, effigies of BJP leaders were burnt in several blocks of the district including grain markets.
“Out of the 19 blocks in Sitapur, effigy burning took place in 12 blocks including Akbarpur, Jhariya, Jagamalpur and Nevada in a peaceful manner. Anger among farmers was palpable against the current regime for shielding Ajay Mishra, and its autocratic behaviour for harassing farmers. The Lakhimpur Kheri incident united peasants. The battle against this government will continue till the three agricultural laws are withdrawn,” Brij Bihari, general secretary of Mazdoor Kisan Manch told Newsclick.
“The ruling government is the biggest Ravan in today’s time, as they are ignoring the legitimate demands of farmers due to a stubborn attitude. Hundreds of farmers have lost their lives, but the authoritarian government has not broken its silence,” Bihari said.
Demonstrating at the Rambagh intersection in Agra has cost the officials and workers of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Lok Shakti). The police arrested seven of its office-bearers; later, however, these leaders got bail.
SKM will hold up rail traffic for six hours on October 18, to protest against lack of action against Union Minister Ajay Mishra.
BKU’s Harinam Singh Verma shared how preparations for Rail Roko had already begun. “Farmers from every district will stage blockades on their nearest rail lines. We will not get justice if Mishra remains the Union Minister. So, unless he is sacked, we are going ahead with our Rail Roko programme.” Verma said, adding that a grand Mahapanchayat is scheduled to be held in Lucknow on October 20, for which, preparation is underway.