The Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the Lakhimpur Kheri violence, in its application submitted to the area’s Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM), has said that the killing of the four farmers and a journalist on October 3 was a “well-planned conspiracy”.
In its application to the CJM, the SIT report highlighted that the October 3 incident did not happen due to “negligence and callousness” and that the actions of the accused were “deliberate with an intention to kill”.
Vidhyaram Diwakar, the SIT’s investigating officer, filed the application on December 9 to the CJM’s court for adding new sections in the warrant, replacing sections 279, 338 and 304A of the IPC. With this development, it now seems that the main accused in this incident, Ashish Mishra Teni, son of Union MoS Ajay Mishra Teni, may find himself behind the bars till any concrete and substantive evidence proves his innocence contradicting the SIT report. The allegations by the protesting farmers who witnessed the dreadful incident also implicate Ashish Mishra. The farmers have claimed that a vehicle from Mishra’s convoy ran the victims over intentionally.
The SIT has also demanded replacement of charges of rash driving or riding on a public way, causing grievous hurt to any person by doing any act, causing death by negligence. They have recommended pressing charges of murder, rioting, and rioting armed with weapons.
A local court, on Tuesday, accepted the several new charges raised by the new SIT against Ashish Mishra Teni and 12 other accused, including attempt to murder. However, it rejected the SIT’s plea to invoke the charge of “common intention” behind the incident following objections from the defence counsel.
The new charges levelled against Ashish Mishra have come while his bail application is pending with the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court. The matter has been listed for January. With this development, the opposition has once again received fresh ammunition to attack the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government in Uttar Pradesh ahead of the assembly election in 2022.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the Congress general secretary who has been campaigning in UP, has reacted strongly and said that the role of the union MoS Ajay Mishra Teni should be probed. She alleged that since the minister has not been removed yet, it manifests the anti-farmer mindset of the government.
Samajwadi Party (SP) national president, Akhilesh Yadav said that the farmers will never forget the incident: “The farmers will never forget the Lakhimpur Kheri incident. First, this government introduced three black farm laws, then insulted the agitating farmers. Over 700 farmers lost their lives in the agitation. And then looking at the elections in UP and Punjab, the government withdrew the black laws. So many farmers would have not lost their lives had this government listened to us and farmers. BJP people mowed down farmers by SUVs.”
All the accused on Tuesday were brought to the court from Lakhimpur Jail where they are lodged for the hearing. The matter could now become a case of utmost concern and extreme worry to the ruling BJP in UP ahead of the assembly election in 2022 with the demands of dismissing Ajay Mishra accelerating, which could potentially harm the party in terms of its popularity and impact the electoral base.
It may be recalled that on November 17, three IPS officers – S.B. Shirodkar, Deepinder Singh and Padmaja Chauhan – had been appointed to this SIT. The Supreme Court had expressed its disappointment on the composition of this investigation team that largely consisted of sub-inspector grade members from the Lakhimpur Kheri region. Following this, the apex court also appointed Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain, a retired judge of Punjab and Haryana High Court to monitor the investigation.
On October 20, the Court had reprimanded the UP government saying it was “dragging its feet”, and also expressed its deep concern that the case against Ashish Mishra was allowed to be “diluted” by clubbing it with the case of mob lynching. “What it appears to us is that this SIT somehow or the other is unable to maintain investigative distance between the cases,” Justice Surya Kant had said.