Following the Lakhimpur Kheri farmer massacre, the situation in Uttar Pradesh has worsened. Congress party’s leader Priyanka Gandhi was detained by the police at Sitapur on her way to Lakhimpur Kheri. Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Akhilesh Yadav was also arrested from Lucknow, after which his enraged supporters had put a police vehicle on fire. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Bandopadhyay announced that her party—Trinamool Congress (TMC)—will send a delegate team of five to reach out to the victims of the Lakhimpur Kheri farmer massacre.
As per last available reports, eight, including four farmers, had been killed in Tikunia-Banbirpur road of Lakhimpur Kheri district on Sunday, October 3rd, after two SUVs from the convoy of Ashish Mishra— the son of Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay ‘Teni’ Mishra—hit them when they were returning from the Maharaja Agrasen ground where they held a protest rally against the visit of the minister and the state’s Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Chandra Maurya.
The farmers, who are demanding the repealing of three anti-farmer agriculture laws passed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and a legal guarantee of minimum support price (MSP) for crops, waved black flags and occupied the helipad where Mishra and Maurya’s helicopter was supposed to land. After the helicopter’s landing was cancelled the farmers were returning from the protest site when the SUVs associated with Ashish Mishra allegedly ran over them.
The Union minister of state (MoS) had earlier called the farmers’ movement against Modi’s deadly farm laws an affair of “10-15 people” and that he can crush it whenever he wants. The farmers have been enraged by his words, which resulted in the large gathering of farmers at Tikunia in Lakhimpur Kheri district to oppose his visit along with Maurya’s. The Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM)—the umbrella body of 40 farmers’ organisations steering the movement against Modi’s farm laws—has a policy of waving black flags at ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislators and leaders, demanding the repealing of the agriculture laws.
After trying to cover up Ashish Mishra’s role, following vehement denial from his father about his presence during the incident, the police reluctantly booked him on murder charges due to severe outrage all over India. However, he is neither arrested nor the police showed any hurry in pursuing the case. The Union MoS and the BJP government are allegedly shielding him. Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati claimed that there can be no fair investigation as the ruling party and the son of a Union MoS are complicit in the case and demanded a judicial probe. But the BJP hasn’t shown any signs of relenting. Rather, it has upped the ante against the protesters and the Opposition.
Apart from the Union MoS, desperately trying to save his son, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has also peddled a “conspiracy” theory without spilling the beans. According to pro-BJP news agency ANI, Yogi expressed sorrow over the Lakhimpur Kheri farmer massacre and said his government will “expose elements involved in the incident”, which points towards his penchant for persecuting opponents by blaming them for such incidents. The BJP has toed this line and has peddled its bespoke theory.
The BJP has been amplifying its victimhood story in the Lakhimpur Kheri farmer massacre incident. The BJP claimed that the driver of one car in the convoy lost his balance after protesters pelted stones and the car then hit several people, killing two on the spot. Another narrative is peddled, which claims that the farmers and BJP workers died when one car was overturned by the protesters.
The party, echoing MoS Mishra’s words, claimed four of its workers, including a driver of MoS Mishra, were killed by the farmers in retaliation. It seems like the BJP and its toady press may spin these narratives and create a cacophony accusing the farmers of instigating the violence.
So far, apart from arresting activists, including the detention of Gandhi and the arrest of Yadav, the BJP-ruled state has allegedly placed BSP leader Satish Mishra under house arrest as per Mayawati. Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi have been barred from flying to Lucknow airport by the Yogi regime after the duo announced their decision to visit the victims at Lakhimpur Kheri. Baghel questioned whether civil rights are suspended in Uttar Pradesh as the government is acting in a tyrannical way.
As the BJP is not prepared with a convincing plot yet to blame the farmers for the Lakhimpur Kheri farmer massacre, it will continue frantically persecuting the Opposition. By acting frantically, the BJP has been exposing its panicked state and providing ample opportunities to the Opposition and the farmers to hit back. Whether the farmers can utilise this opportunity to force the Modi government to retreat on the farm laws is yet to be seen. But the Lakhimpur Kheri farmer massacre has certainly created a long-term trouble spot for the BJP, which it can’t get rid of easily.