The Yogi Adityanath led Uttar Pradesh state government barred opposition leaders from reaching Lakhimpur Kheri on Monday, a day after violence erupted in the region. According to reports, a car owned by Ashish Mishra, son of the Minister of State for Home Affairs, Ajay Mishra, was used to mow down four farmers. In retaliation, the protesters and enraged locals allegedly set fire to the vehicles of the convoy and beat BJP party members to death, resulting in the death of four others. The police said that a local journalist was also killed amid the violence, and at least eight others were injured.
Following the incident, the UP government deployed police officials in huge numbers and issued Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code, restricting movement and assembly of four or more people. Soon after the incident, opposition leaders started attacking Yogi’s style of governance and called his “gunda raj” a complete failure.
As the violence sparked national outrage, setting up the stage for high-tension drama ahead of the 2022 state assembly election in UP, various opposition leaders announced that they would head for Lakhimpur Kheri. However, the state government prohibited the entry of these leaders into the village.
This included Congress general secretary, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who arrived in Lucknow late on Sunday night along with Congress MP Deepender Hooda. As they headed to reach the spot and meet the kin of the farmers killed on Sunday they were stopped by the police. They were stopped in Sitapur early morning on Monday, and were detained and taken to the PAC guest house. Social media clips showed Priyanka Gandhi and Hooda resisting the police and questioning the officers for not carrying a written order.
During her media address, Priyanka blamed the state’s governance and said, “I tried to walk but they were pushing and shoving. They also pushed and shoved Deepender Hooda, and manhandled him. As I was trying to stop them from hitting my colleagues, they manhandled me. They tried to force me into their jeep, but I told them there was no legal basis.”
“The BJP government is practicing the politics of crushing the farmers and finishing them,” she wrote in Hindi on Twitter. “Today’s incident shows that this government is using politics to mow down farmers. This is the farmers’ country, not BJP’s… I’m not committing any crime by deciding to meet the victims’ kin…Why are you stopping us? You should have a warrant,” said Priyanka after getting detained in Sitapur.
Bahujan Samaj Party’s national general secretary, Satish Chandra Mishra tried to leave his residence for Lakhimpur Kheri around the same time but failed to do so.
Taking a jibe at the Yogi government, the former CM of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), Omar Abdullah tweeted, “Uttar Pradesh is the naya J&K.” Along with his tweet, another former CM and PDP leader, Mehbooba Mufti, joined in attacking the BJP government and tweeted, “One can’t even compare the oppression unleashed in J&K since 2019 but the common denominators are obvious. What started in J&K was sadly met with an air of indifference & has now engulfed the entire country. When will we speak up?”
She also tweeted, “Applying Section 144 wherever human rights & dignity is trampled has emerged as GOIs preferred approach. This government shows no hesitation in using an iron fist with its own people but welcomes Chinese troops with open arms.”
The newly appointed CM of Punjab, Charanjit Singh Channi and one of his deputy chief ministers, Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, were also denied permissions to visit Lakhimpur Kheri by the UP government on the pretext of the imposition of Section 144.
Some relation has been drawn with the Hathras rape case, with allegations that similar developments took place after the incident when the police denied permissions to opposition leaders and journalists to visit the village and meet the family of the victim.
“Clearly, it’s Hathras model. Both the state government and the Union government are attempting to hush up and cover up the incident of Lakhimpur Kheri violence,” said AAP’s Saurabh Bharadwaj in a press conference at the party’s headquarters in Delhi.
Samajwadi Party head Akhilesh Yadav staged a sit-in after being stopped from visiting the Lakhimpur Kheri district following his detention from outside his residence in Lucknow. He accused the BJP of “colluding” with killers and said, “Vehicles are being run over those who raise their voices. We want the arrest of the minister and his son in the Lakhimpur incident.”
West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee who recently won the Bhabanipur elections by a strong margin, accused the BJP for dismantling the democracy. She said, “Killing Rajya is going on, instead of Ram Rajya as promised by them.”
A video that is being circulated on social media shows that two vehicles including a SUV ran over a group of people at Tikunia in Lakhimpur Kheri, which manifests farmers and eyewitnesses version and could potentially inflame sentiments against minister Ajay Mishra and his son Ashish Mishra. Some maintain that Ashish Mishra was in one of the vehicles and escaped while others were allegedly lynched after the incident. So far there has been no official statement highlighting the credibility of this video.
Ajay and Ashish Mishra have been accused of murder and criminal conspiracy, however, they have denied the allegations and instead claimed that protestors started pelting stones on the vehicles due to which the driver of one of the cars lost control, leading to the unfortunate incident.
The families of two of the four farmers killed during Sunday’s incident have refused to cremate their bodies until they get the post-mortem reports.
At a time when none of the political parties wants to skip a chance to woo the voters ahead of the 2022 election, these developments outline a potential threat to the current government. The UP government has come under scrutiny from time to time for allegedly ratifying notorious acts such as fake or forced encounters, changing the names of certain places as supposedly an act of defying secularism, its mismanagement during the COVID crisis, and its handling of the farmers’ protest against the three controversial farm laws.
For now, the Uttar Pradesh government has decided to provide financial assistance of ₹45 lakhs and a government job to the kin of the four farmers killed in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence. The injured farmers will be given a compensation of ₹10 lakhs. Apart from that, a retired High Court judge will probe the incident.