New Delhi: Thousands of farmers squatted on rail tracks and occupied platforms in several states on Monday in protest against the Narendra Modi government’s inaction in not sacking or arresting Union cabinet minister Ajay Mishra Teni for his ‘role’ in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence.
There were reports of preventive arrests and detentions from states, such as Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, according to Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), farmers collective, which has given the call for a countrywide ‘rail roko’ on Monday.
“More than 290 trains were reportedly affected and more than 40 trains cancelled. In Uttar Pradesh, there were many detentions of farmer leaders in numerous places by the UP Police. In Madhya Pradesh, the Police arrested protestors in several places like Guna, Gwalior, Rewa, Bamaniya (in Jhabua) and other places. In Kacheguda (Hyderabad) of Telangana also, protestors were arrested. Reports of successful Rail Roko have come in from numerous states like Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana etc.,” SKM said in a press release.
The farmers were protesting against the mowing down of four farmers and a journalist who were returning after a peaceful protest in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri on October 3. The SUV that ran over the farmers was allegedly driven by the BJP ministers’ son, Ashish, who was arrested a week later. Three BJP members were alos killed in the violence that took eight lives.
The Uttar Pradesh Police, in its First Information Report has booked Teni and his son Ashish Mishra for hatching a conspiracy to kill the farmers by mowing down under his SUV Mahindra Thar.
The SKM, which has been spearheading a movement against three Central farm laws for close to a year now, demanded that the Modi Government has to take moral responsibility “in addition to doing this as a simple principle of natural justice, to ensure that the investigation is not impacted, the real culprits and masterminds of Lakhimpur Kheri Massacre are arrested.”
Maintaining that a fair probe can only take place if the minister resigns the SKM warned that protests would be intensified further if its demands for justice in Lakhimpur Kheri ‘massacre’ were not met.
Haryana: Farmers Vent ire in Sonipat
Sonipat: For Vijender Singh and his friends, the morning began with more bad news. The untimely rains on Monday night had wreaked havoc on crops. Yet, he chose to be part of the protest at Sonipat Railway Station to stop trains to show their anguish on continuation of Ajay Mishra Teni in the Union Cabinet as junior minister.
Sitting on tracks, Singh told NewsClick that there were peculiar trends in the conduct of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party that clearly show that the government does not want any dialogue with farmers.
“How can a person sitting on post of Minister of State for Home Affairs ensure justice when he too is booked for murdering the farmers. We do not expect justice from them but we cannot leave our struggle too. Had they really cared for justice, farmers would not have to sit on roads for 11 months,” he said.
Raj Kumar Rana said: “the rains have decimated our crops. Now, the farmers who grow less water consuming crops other than rice are also bankrupt. Those who considered themselves lucky by harvesting their crops early too are disturbed because the government did not procure the crops in a speedy manner and the grains are now inundated in APMC mandis. Despite this ordeal, we are here to ask for justice for our brethren. Their sacrifice cannot go in vain.”
Abhimanyu Kohar, youngest leader of SKM, saw a different political messaging in the inaction on the minister. “To us, the real incident began not on October 3 but September 25 when the minister in question openly made remarks that he could teach a lesson to farmers. He has been accused of murder and smuggling and everybody knows his conduct in the area. Ideally, PM Modi should have taken his resignation after his statement. By choosing to not to sack and arrest him, Modi is clearly saying that he is not interested in any justice to farmers,” he added.
Kohar said the narrative of ‘Khalistani, Maoist, extremists’ by ministers and the killing of farmers has fired them even more to reclaim their dignity. “We will not return to our homes until justice is done. We are not worried if it means removal of government in the elections in 2024.”
MP: Over 400 Detained
Bhopal: Over 400 people were detained across Madhya Pradesh for attempting to enter the railway station in a bid to stop trains on Monday for the ‘rail roko’ call by SKM.
Police detained Madhya Pradesh SKM convenor Badal Saroj, senior farmer leader Irfan Jafri and hundred others from outside Nasrullaganj railway station of Raisen district around 12 p.m. Farmers were marching towards the railway station to stop the trains when police detained them. They were released later the day.
Similarly, hundreds of farmers were arrested in Gwalior, Satna, Guna, Narsinghpur, Vidisha and Morena for attempting to enter the railway station in a bid to register their protest on the Lakhimpur Kheri violence, said Saroj.
The SKM convenor alleged that the son of Union Minister Ajay Mishra was driving in the vehicle that mowed down farmers ij Lakhimpur Kheri, resulting in the death of as many as eight people, including four farmers, on October 3. The deceased in the incident also include three BJP workers and a local journalist.
"Our protest will continue until the Union Government meets our demands for resignation of the Union Minister and withdrawal of the three farm laws," said Jafri, convenor of Jagrut Kisan Sanghatan.
When contacted, Rahul Jaipuriya, Chief Public Relation Officer, West Central Railway, said train services of Bhopal and Gwalior divisions were not affected. "
Rakesh Gupta, ADG, Law and Order, Madhya Pradesh police said, "Till 3 am, the protest was peaceful and dozens of people were detained in a few districts who were attempting to enter inside the station in a bid to stop train services. But they were released later."
West Bengal: Rain Fails to Dampen Spirit
Kolkata: It was raining cats and dogs throughout the state, but it failed to deter activists of All India Kisan Sabha and All India Agricultural Workers Union (AIAWU) and other constituents of the SKM from taking to the rail tracks.
Picketing began at 10 a.m at various stations in Purulia , Nadia , South Dinajpur , Burdwan east and west , North 24 Parganas and Bankura. The activists had to play hide & seek with the Railway Police in some districts as they were stopped from carrying out the ‘rail roko’. In the many other districts, the protest could not be taken up due to heavy rains.
Later, talking with NewsClick AIAWU state president Tushar Ghosh said the programme saw earnest participation by agricultural labourers who too protested against the murder of innocent peasants in UP’s Lakhimpur Kheri.
Amal Halder, convenor , All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, said in most places close to 500 to 700 activists gathered for the ‘rail woko’.
“Our fight shall go on until the accused Central minister of state for Home is removed from the Union cabinet and the three farm laws are repealed,” he said.
ODISHA: Opposition Parties Back Farmers
Bhubaneswar: Train services were on Monday affected in the East Coast Railway division of Odisha for around 30 minutes to one hour owing to the 'rail roko' agitation by farmers, demanding the dismissal and arrest of Union minister Ajay Mishra for his alleged involvement in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence earlier this month.
The agitation call by SKM received support from the Congress, the Left and the Aam Aadmi Party in Odisha.
In Odisha, however, the agitation continued for around 20 minutes at most stations, barring Gorakhnath, where demonstrators sat on the tracks for at least 50 minutes.
According to an ECoR official, as many as 12 trains came to a halt at the stations, causing problems for the daily commuters, even as the agitators refused to vacate the tracks.
The trains were allowed to move only after the protesters left the stations, he said
Senior CPI(M) leader Suresh Panigrahi claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s "silence" on the UP violence and his cabinet minister's alleged role in the incident has fuelled anger among people.
The Congress, too, sought Mishra's dismissal and arrest.
"We have extended our support to the agitation as we know that the investigation won't be neutral if Ajay Mishra continues to be a minister in the central cabinet," Congress MLA Suresh Routray claimed.
The legislator also demanded immediate withdrawal of the three contentious farm laws.