Lakhimpur Kheri Violence Has Placed Opposition Politics on the Fast Track
The Uttar Pradesh government might be patting itself on the back for diffusing the immediate crisis but the anger amongst the farmers over the Lakhimpur Kheri incident has not abated. Fresh videos of the incident capture in some graphic detail the actual mowing down of the farmers by cars in the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay Mishra’s convoy, with eyewitnesses quoted by the media alleging that one of the vehicles was driven by his son. These videos are being shared widely on social media sites managed by the farmers.
Farmer leader Rajesh Tikait brokered a settlement between the UP administration and the families of the farmers who had died in the fracas. He presided over a press conference where top police officers addressed the media, announcing details of the agreement at his bidding. It was very clear, as farmer leaders told The Citizen subsequently, that this was just to ensure that the families were looked after and has no bearings on the farmers movement or the larger demands for the resignation of Minister Ajay Mishra and Haryana Chief Minister for inciting violence against the farmers.
The Opposition has taken a strong position as well, with immediate response to the incident at Lakhimpur Kheri leading to the virtual isolation of the BJP on this issue. Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi grabbed the headlines when she set off for Lakhimpur Kheri along with Deepender Singh Hooda but was stopped repeatedly and not allowed to meet the families of the victims. A video clip has her forcefully arguing with the police, demanding they show the warrant on the basis of which they were stopping her movements.
The chief ministers of Congress ruled Punjab and Chhattisgarh, Charanjit Singh Channi and Bhupesh Baghel too were not allowed to fly down to Lucknow and proceed to the site of the violence. In fact, the Uttar Pradesh government did not allow any opposition leader to go to the site citing a threat to law and order. This gave a lot of cannon fodder to the opposition.
Leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge stated, “This inhuman killing was carried out in a brazen manner by the son of the union minister of state for home and his accomplices. This is a fatal blow to the very democratic roots of our country. This grave incident of killing of peacefully-agitating farmers is further compounded by the fact that the state machinery did not take action against the culprits.”
He further said, “All through this, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the central government was being a mute spectator. Their callousness is indicated by the fact that they not only refused to withdraw the anti-farmer laws against which these massive protests are happening, they also did nothing to hear, pacify and address the grievances and concerns of the protesting farmers. This gravely unfortunate incident is a clear affront to the very democratic spirit as enshrined in our Constitution.”
Kharge said the country is now in grips of an ‘intolerant, autocratic, anti-farmer and anti-people government’. “They are completely indifferent to the problems of the farmers and common people and are trying to stifle the voice of the leaders who are protesting against this injustice.”
The BJP Lok Sabha member from Pilibhit BJP MP from Pilibhit Varun Gandhi too criticized what happened on Sunday as he termed the Lakhimpur Kheri incident in which protesting farmers were killed as ‘unforgivable’ in ‘any decent civilization’. He dashed a letter to the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath seeking strict action in the matter. (https://twitter.com/varungandhi80/status/1444864787423260675?s=20)
Since the farmers’ movement is dominating the narrative for the forthcoming assembly polls in Punjab, the Lakhimpur Kheri incident is playing out prominently. Channi on Monday submitted a detailed memorandum on vital farmers’ issues to the Punjab Governor Banwarilal Purohit along with his cabinet colleagues to further send the same to PM Modi urging him to direct the Uttar Pradesh government to ensure justice for the families of the victims of the violence in Lakhimpur Kheri. He also reiterated the need to urgently review and repeal the three farm laws that have caused resentment amongst the farmers.
The memorandum read, “Moreover, the common people and farmers are feeling alienated from the present system, which has gradually crumbled due to erosion of democratic values and ethics.”
Meanwhile, Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) president Sukhbir Singh Badal has announced that a high level party delegation under Prem Singh Chandumajra would visit Lakhimpur Kheri. He has asked Modi to shun his ‘arrogance’ and accept the farmers’ demands so that lives of farmers could be saved.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has come out stating that just as the Maharajas and the British used to crush the common people under elephants and horses, the spirit of the tyrannical British rulers has also entered the Modi-led central government and the Yogi government of Uttar Pradesh.
Party leader Raghav Chadha too announced the departure of a party delegation to Lakhimpur Kheri. Party leader Raghav Chadha said the massacre of Lakhimpur Kheri has bled Uttar Pradesh and the central governments.
In neighbouring Haryana also politics is gathering steam on the issue of the farmers’ protest. On one side is speculation about whether or not Jannayak Janata Party (JJP), an offshoot of Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) that had renowned farmers’ leader Chaudhary Devi Lal as its patriarch, would walk out of its alliance with the BJP. If yes, then when.
This would result in the Manohar Lal Khattar led government losing majority in the state assembly. The question is what is stopping JJP from walking out given the fact that it won its seats on the mandate of farmers and its leaders along with those from the BJP are facing hostilities from the farmers on a daily basis and are not allowed to enter villages.
“They have lost whatever support they had among the people. What would they gain on coming out of the government and that too at a time when most of the assembly term is still to go? Probably they expect a miracle of sorts that would change the correlation of farmers in the times to come. They also stand to lose their members if they walk out of the alliance besides not getting to enjoy the benefits of power that they have right now,” explained Inderjeet, the All India Kisan Sabha leader in the state.
The state has been witnessing various Congress leaders trying to increase their support base among the primarily rural electorate over the last few months.
Meanwhile, the INLD is also trying to revive its fortunes among the electorate by extending support to the protesting farmers.
All this is happening as the constituency of Ellenabad goes to by-polls later this month.
The AIKS has pointed out that the farmers’ movement is growing everyday across India and peoples’ resistance against the corporate exploitation is becoming stronger.
“The killing of farmers at Lakhimpur Kheri is yet another attempt by the BJP to derail the farmers’ movement. The violent attack in UP is not a standalone incident. In the recent period such attacks against farmers have increased in several states wherever BJP is in power. One farmer, Susheel Kajol was murdered by the Haryana police in Karnal on August 28 and police in Assam killed two farmers in Daraang on September 23. Haryana’s chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar gave an incendiary speech on October 3 calling for violence against protesting farmers.
This series of events exposes a conspiracy to suppress the ongoing farmers’ struggle with direct involvement of the highest leadership of the RSS and the BJP. The people can clearly see and understand the pro-corporate designs in misusing the state power by the RSS, BJP to suppress the farmers’ movement and they will not allow this to continue,” AIKS president Ashok Dhawale and general secretary Hannan Mollah said on Monday.
Trinamool Congress leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee too spared no words in slamming the Uttar Pradesh government on Lakhimpur Kheri incident as she reportedly said that the state is no ‘Ram Rajya’ as claimed but a ‘Killing Rajya’.
Former Prime Minister H.D.Deve Gowwda sought justice for the farmers who had been killed as did Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar. He said this was a barbaric way of silencing the voice of the farmers and should be strongly condemned.
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah drew a parallel with the clampdown in his state, “Uttar Pradesh is the ‘naya J&K’ [new J&K],” he tweeted. Opposition leaders were similarly stopped from entering Jammu and Kashmir after it was stripped of Statehood, bifurcated and Article 370 was abrogated.
Talking about the opposition strategy for the forthcoming Uttar Pradesh polls, political analysts feel the Bihar experiment of a grand alliance can work provided it is pragmatic and does not repeat the past mistake of the Congress being given a large number of seats that it is in no position to win.
The sources pointed out that an alliance of forces like Rashtriya Lok Dal, Samajwadi Party, Left Parties, Congress and groups like those led by Chandrashekhar Azad is the need of the hour and were of the view that this incident and the farmers protest was emerging as the binding force for the Opposition.