Countrywide Protests Follow Lakimpur Kheri Violence, Farmers Unite
Khattar's tit for tat call agitates farmers too
Tempers among the farming community are running high with protests breaking out at different points following the death of four (some reports suggest five) farmers at Lakhimpur Kheri. At least eight people including the farmers were reportedly killed after a convoy of vehicles allegedly mowed down those protesting against the visit of Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra Teni and Uttar Pradesh’s deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya.
Several others were injured. There are reports of vehicles being torched by the farmers in retaliation. The police told reporters that while four were farmers the others were persons who were inside the vehicles.
This came on the heels of growing anger against Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar whose video calling for violence against the farmers was widely circulated. He is heard telling the persons he is addressing that they should respond with lathis, and even if they spent a few months in jail they would emerge as heroes.
The farmers who have been running a movement against three controversial farm laws brought in by the central government have now called for a country wide protest in all district headquarters on Monday.
They have also demanded the dismissal of Ajay Mishra besides registration of murder case against him and other persons including his son Ashish (Monu) Mishra, travelling in the vehicles that allegedly mowed down the farmers and later resorted to the attack on farmer leaders. They have sought a probe by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court into the matter.
The farmers have also sought an apology from Khattar along with his resignation from the constitutional post that he is holding.
It needs to be underlined that while Uttar Pradesh is heading towards the state assembly polls four months from now, Haryana is also set to witness a by-poll to the Ellenabad assembly constituency later this month. It goes without saying that the farmers’ mobilization is threatening the poll outcome not only in these places but in the states of Punjab and Uttarakhand as well that go to polls alongside Uttar Pradesh next year.
Farmer leaders told this reporter that the two incidents should not be looked at as isolated incidents as there is a pattern emerging in the developments that began with the brutal lathicharge in Karnal in late August when the local sub divisional magistrate reportedly called for opening the heads of those protesting at a toll plaza.
“The government wants direct confrontation with the farmers and then use the violence to suppress the ongoing farmers’ movement that has spread across the country. You cannot separate what happened in Lakimpur Kheri, the utterances of Khattar and the action of Karnal SDM Ayush Sinha. Anyone holding a constitutional position cannot make a statement like that made by Khattar on Sunday. He has no right to continue in office and we demand his immediate resignation,” All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) leader Inderjeet said.
A statement issued by the Himachal Kisan Sabha said, "It is a matter of shame that instead of talking to the farmers, the government is suppressing them by using force. It is trying to finish off the farmers' agitation by dictatorial means."
A statement issued by Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) said, “In a brutal and inhuman attack on peacefully protesting farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri, a convoy of vehicles associated with BJP's union minister of state for home affairs Ajay Mishra Teni, his son, his uncle and other goons ran over several protestors. It is reported that one of the farmers was shot dead by Ajay Mishra Teni’s son Ashish (Monu) Mishra. At least two other farmers were killed in the incident (one on the spot, and another in a hospital), and around ten others injured seriously. Terai Kisan Sangathan and SKM leader Tajinder Singh Virk has also been seriously injured. More details about the deceased and injured are awaited. It is reported that farmers were also provoked into retaliation after this brutal attack, and that vehicles of the BJP leader were smashed.”
There have been reports in the media about Teni denying the allegations made by the farmers and saying his son was not present at the spot. Reports say that the dead also include his driver and three BJP workers.
The SKM has warned the BJP leaders of Uttar Pradesh to stop provoking farmers.
A large number of farmers had assembled at Maharaja Agrasen grounds for a black flag protest against Teni and Maurya and to prevent their chopper from landing there. The farmers have been miffed over Teni issuing an ‘open threat’ to the farmer leaders in a recent public meeting recently.
The mowing down of farmers and the subsequent violence is reported to have taken place when they were dispersing from the protest site. Meanwhile, a video of Khattar did the rounds where he is heard encouraging his party workers to create volunteers in every district in north and west Haryana and be ready to face imprisonment and sticks that would make them ‘big leaders’.
He was reportedly addressing the members of BJP’s Kisan Morcha and could be heard saying to the audience “…kisano ke 500-700-1,000 log aap log apne khade karo, unko volunteer banao aur fir jagah-jagah Sathe Sathyam Smacharet. (Raise your 500-700-1000 volunteers among farmers and then go for tit for tat at various places)”
There are reports quoting a Haryana government official that it is mischief as only a part of what Khattar said is being circulated. The official reportedly said that Khattar made the comment in a lighter vein and had later added that people should not indulge in violence.
An official release about the event simply mentioned that Khattar had called for the constitution of a cell of progressive farmers and honouring them as well. He said that progressive farmers would act as trainers and would give training to five farmers every year. They will be given a separate amount for this.
Meanwhile, the farmer leadership has dispelled the message being disseminated by the propagandists and the embedded media about the farmers’ agitation fizzling out and being confined only to Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh. The movement is in fact going from strength to strength.
The SKM has stated, “Yesterday, farmers had a swift victory through a united, coordinated struggle against delay in paddy procurement by government agencies. It was a Satyagraha that immediately yielded results. The SKM would like to point out to the BJP government that such a U-turn is easy enough to take, and can be done so gracefully. In the face of strong evidence that farmers put forward that their livelihoods will be adversely affected otherwise, the government had to concede to the demand. Similar should be the case with the core demands of this historic farmers' agitation.”
AIKS president Ashok Dhawale added, “In Rajasthan's Sriganganagar district, farmers' protests erupted last evening into a large gathering of more than ten thousand people demanding canal water for irrigation. In Ghadsana, farmers who are afraid of their crops getting destroyed in the absence of supply of canal irrigation water have been demanding the same for several days now, but the administration ignored the legitimate demand of farmers. The farmers' fear and wrath turned into a large assembly of thousands of farmers outside the SDM office, where they have laid a siege. The siege is continuing.”
Meanwhile, sugarcane growers of Karnataka have announced an assembly gherao on October 5 in Bangaluru. They are protesting against the low prices being offered as state advisory price (SAP)
Meanwhile a Lokneeti Satyagraha Padyatra is underway from Champaran in Bihar to Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. The farmer leaders claim that thousands set off on the padaytra on October 2 commemorating the birth anniversaries of Mahatma Gandhi and Lal Bahadur Shastri.
Counting their victories, the SKM has pointed out that Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi has announced that cases filed against protestors occupying railway tracks as part of the current agitation would be withdrawn.
The SKM has demanded that all cases against farmers be withdrawn in Haryana too.