Lucknow: On a stage set up at the sprawling ground at Sahebjada Inter College in Tikonia village, family members of deceased farmers Daljeet Singh and Gurvinder Singh of Bahraich district, Nachhatar Singh and Lovepreet Singh of Lakhimpur Kheri district, brother and daughter of journalist Raman Kashyap of Nighasan (Kheri) were seen holding photographs of the deceased.
They had gathered for the last prayers or antim ardas of the slain farmers and a journalist, whose last remains were kept on the stage in Tikonia, where thousands of farmers from Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Haryana had landed to attend the ‘antim ardas.
Eight people had died on October 3 violence and of them four were farmers, allegedly mowed down by a vehicle carrying Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers.
The infuriated farmers then allegedly lynched some people in the vehicle. The other dead included two BJP workers and their drivers. A local scribe had also died in the incident.
On the call given by Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), a collective of over 40 farmer unions, villagers observed ‘Shaheed Kisan Diwas’ on Tuesday which included a mass prayer meeting and candlelight vigils in honour of the four farmers and the scribe killed last week.
Sukhvinder Singh, in his early 70s, remembers October 3 very clearly. That’s the day he finally understood what might have happened in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
For, that day, Tikonia village in Lakhimpur Kheri district of Uttar Pradesh resembled a battleground when the son of Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra allegedly mowed down some protesters who were opposing Deputy Chief Minister’s K P Maurya’s visit to the area.
“My son Gurvinder is no more with us. But I have promised myself that I will go wherever the farmers’ movement takes place,” Sukhvinder, father of Gurvinder, told Newsclick with moist eyes.
The deceased Gurvinder was the youngest of three siblings. Sukhvinder says his ancestral home had fallen in Lahore, Pakistan at the time of Partition of the country. After this, the family settled in Muktsar district of Punjab. In 2015, they bought land in Moharnia of Bahraich district.
“At a very early age, Gurvinder turned to spirituality. He had left home and had set up a hut in the fields. After Gurvinder’s death, his ashram is now deserted,” said Sukhvinder, who had come to participate his son’s ‘antim ardas’ (final prayer) in Tikonia.
Sitting near Sukhvinder Singh, the family members of Nachhatar Singh also came to pray for the peace of the departed souls.
Jagdeep Singh, son of Nachhatar Singh, was seen holding his father picture.
“The memory of my father will always be with us. We didn’t know my father will die like this and I would attend his final prayer in this situation. The whole process is painful for our family, but we have to bear it all,” he told NewsClick.
Jasveer Singh Virk, president of Bharatiya Sikh Sangathan, one of key organisers of the final prayer, said Monday night onward, hundreds of protesters and supporters from neighbouring districts and states, including Punjab and Uttarakhand, started pouring into Tikonia to pay homage to the deceased farmers.
“The last funeral rites took place amid a huge crowd. We had not expected such a gathering. Leaders across political lines and dozens of farmer unions, irrespective of their ideology, came here to pay tribute to the slain farmers,” Virk told Newsclick.
Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Jayant Chaudhary and Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) Rakesh Tikait were among those who attended the prayers.
Tikait termed the arrest of Ashish Mishra, son of the BJP minster, as a “red carpet arrest”, which was not acceptable to farmers and family members.
The BKU leader warned of a massive agitation in the state if Union Minister for Home Ajay Mishra, who is charged under Section 120B of Indian Penal Code (IPC), is not dismissed and arrested.
“The antim ardas will not be over until the minister and his accused son are lodged in separate barracks in Agra, not in the home district Lakhimpur jail. They are guilty of murder, the minister must resign and be arrested,” he said, while speaking at the 'antim ardas' on Tuesday.
Tikait announced that effigies would be burnt in districts on October 15 and the further course of action would be decided later.
"On October 24, the ashes of the deceased would be immersed and then a mahapanchayat would be held in Lucknow on October 26 in which the future course of action will be decided," he said.
Attacking the Yogi Adityanath government, Jayant Chaudhary asked people not to forget the Lakhimpur Kheri episode and called upon them to take revenge for the atrocities on farmers though their votes.