The Special Investigation Team probing the Lakhimpur Kheri violence of October 3 has described the killing of fours farmers and a journalist as a “pre-planned conspiracy” .
In an application submitted to the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Kheri district on Monday, the investigation officer (IO) has asked for dropping the charges of death due to negligence and rash driving and adding attempt to murder and voluntarily causing grievous hurt with common intention charges to the warrant of the accused.
Ashish Mishra, son of Union Minister Ajay Mishra Teni, is the main accused in the case, as it was his SUV that allegedly crushed the farmers. He, along with 12 others, has been booked under section 302 (murder) and several other sections of the IPC and is at present lodged in the Lakhimpur district jail. On Tuesday, Mr. Ajay Mishra visited his son in the jail.
The development has put the position of the Minister of State for Home under the shadow. The Opposition has upped their demand of his immediate dismissal. In a tweet, Congress general secretary in charge of U.P. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra described the continuance of Mr. Mishra in the Cabinet as an example of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's “anti-farmer mindset”. She demanded an inquiry committee to look into the Minister’s role in the ‘conspiracy’, and asked for his immediate dismissal.
Farmer unions have already been demanding the sacking of Mr Ajay Mishra from the Cabinet, posing problems for the ruling party in the poll-bound State.
SIT’s chief investigation officer Vidyaram Diwakar, in his letter, said that as per the investigation and evidence collected so far, the criminal act was not committed because of “negligence” , and “callousness”; rather it was “intentionally carried out through a planned conspiracy” to kill people. It led to the death of five people and serious injuries to several others. “Hence sections 307 [attempt to murder], 326 [voluntarily causing grievous hurt through weapons] and 34 [criminal act done by several persons with common intention] of IPC and sections of 3/25/30 of the Arms Act should be added to the warrant of the accused and sections 279 [rash driving], 338 [causing grievous hurt because of negligence] and 304A [causing death by negligence] of IPC be dropped,” he stated.
Eight people were killed in Banbirpur village near Tikunia in Lakhimpur Kheri district on October 3 after three vehicles allegedly ran over a group of farmers returning after staging a protest against the contentious three farm laws, causing a massive outrage among farmers. The farmers were agitated against Mr. Mishra after a purported video, where he could be heard saying it would take him two minutes to discipline them.
Two FIRs were filed in the case. One was lodged on the complaint of the families of the dead farmers. It named Ashish Mishra as the main accused. The other one was filed by Sumit Jaiswal against unnamed farmers for instigating violence that led to the death of three people after the SUVs hit the farmers. During the preliminary investigation, in a video, Mr. Jaiswal was seen running from one of the cars of the SUVs that hit the farmers. He was arrested and made one of the 13 accused in the case.
Observers said the addition of the sections of the Arms Act proved that illegal firearms were present at the site of the incident. Forensic reports had confirmed a bullet was fired from Ashish Mishra’s gun. The Minister had maintained that the agitating farmers attacked the vehicle, which lost control resulting in the farmers getting crushed.
The development has come after the Supreme Court directed the SIT to expedite the investigation and posed some tough questions to the U.P. government.
Responding to the development, the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) observed that the Samyukta Kisan Morcha’s stand had been vindicated and had made the position of Mr. Ajay Mishra all the more untenable in the Cabinet. “The truth has come out. From day one, we have been saying that the Minister and his son are involved in the case. We again demand his immediate dismissal and arrest and the farmers’ struggle will continue till he is shown the door,” said Dharmendra Malik, BKU’s media in charge.