In a brutal and inhuman attack on peacefully protesting farmers led by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha at Tikonia in Lakhimpur Kheri district of Uttar Pradesh on October 3, a convoy of vehicles associated with BJP Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra Teni, his son Ashish Mishra Teni, and other goons ran over several farmer protestors.

It is reported that one of the farmers was shot dead by the son of the Union Minister. Four farmers and a local journalist were killed in the incident, and several others seriously injured, including Terai Kisan Sanghatan and SKM leader Tajinder Singh Virk.

Thousands of farmers had started assembling on the morning of October 3 in Lakhimpur Kheri for a black flag protest against Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya and Union Minister of State Ajay Mishra Teni for the latter’s open threat issued against farmer leaders in a public meeting.

Farmers with black flags had occupied the helipad at the Maharaja Agrasen Ground to prevent the Deputy CM landing there. The brutal attack on farmers happened as they were dispersing from the protest site. Teni’s son, uncle and other goons are reported to have run over protestors from behind.

The very same day, in another condemnable development, Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar was heard in a video clip encouraging BJP-RSS men to pick up lathis and attack farmers even if it meant ending up in jail for a few months.

The SKM has condemned the Haryana CM’s violent remarks and demanded that he resign from his constitutional post. While the farmers’ movement has explicitly made peace and non-violence its values, it is clear that BJP governments are acting with murderous intent towards citizens.

This is the third serial murder of farmers by the BJP within a month. The first was the murder of Sushil Kajal of Karnal, Haryana on August 28, as a result of the brutal police lathi charge by the BJP-JJP government in Haryana, for which orders “to break the heads of farmers” were given by the notorious SDM Ayush Sinha, obviously under the directions of CM Khattar.

The second was the equally brutal killing of two farmers, Saddam Hussain and 12 year old Sheikh Forid, on September 23 in police firing ordered by the BJP’s Assam government. Chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma was shameless enough to hail the police action.

The third is the mowing down of four farmers Gurvinder Singh (19), Lovepreet Singh (20), Daljeet Singh (35) and Nachattar Singh (60) and journalist Raman Kashyap in the Lakhimpur Kheri massacre by BJP hoodlums in Uttar Pradesh.

Besides these killings, over 605 farmers have died as martyrs on the Delhi borders in the last ten months.

Eyewitness accounts reveal how the murderous attack appears planned and facilitated by the UP police. It is reported that police removed barricades to allow the vehicles of the Minister's son, who himself was driving the Thar vehicle, to mow down protestors indiscriminately, and the farmers retaliated thereafter. The police helped Ashish Mishra Teni in escaping from the scene, and it is reported that he fired as he escaped. The specific targeting of SKM leader Tajinder Singh Virk was also stated in eyewitness accounts.

Then a shocking video emerged on October 5 to force even the Godi lapdog media to demand justice by their own standards - even though no media house offered any apology and correction for the false and spurious narrative of protestors’ violence that was being spun since October 3.

In the video, the explanation given by the Union Minister and his son is proved false. It shows the vehicles of the Minister fatally mowing down peacefully walking protestors who were returning from their protest unaware. The journalist Raman Kashyap’s family has also stated that he was killed by vehicles crushing him.

The SKM has demanded that the Uttar Pradesh government must immediately register cases with murder charges under IPC Section 302 against all those involved from the side of Ajay Mishra Teni, and the Union Minister must be dismissed immediately. There must also be a judicial inquiry by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court.

There was no dearth of police security and intimidation at the protest. The Yogi Adityanath government tried numerous undemocratic ways of preventing people from attending the protest. Many SKM leaders were arrested on their way to Lakhimpur Kheri, Section 144 was imposed, and internet services were suspended.

The UP Government went to the extent of disallowing certain people from arriving at or leaving from certain airports, and also wrote to the Punjab government asking that no person from Punjab should be allowed to enter Lakhimpur Kheri.

Preventing leaders of the Opposition from visiting the spot, including a former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and two sitting Chief Ministers (of Punjab and Chhattisgarh) and preventing the landing of a Deputy Chief Minister show the panic of the Yogi regime. Clearly the UP government has something to hide, and is protecting the culprits.

The bodies of the four martyrs had been kept in an overnight vigil by thousands of farmers and their families in Tikunia’s college ground. The huge condolence meeting in Tikonia was attended by thousands of Hindu, Muslim and Sikh farmers in a spirit of exemplary unity.

Now an agreement reached between SKM leaders along with local protesting farmers and families of the deceased, and the state administration, has paved the way for the last rites to be performed of the martyred farmers, after post mortem examination.

The state government will give 45 lakh rupees each and a government job each to the families of the farmers who were killed. The injured will be given 10 lakh rupees each. An FIR has been registered against Ashish Mishra Teni and 15 others under Sections 302, 120B and other charges, and the government has said that it will arrest all accused within a week.

A case has been registered against Union Minister Ajay Mishra Teni also, under Sections like 120B [criminal conspiracy]. The government has agreed to ask a retired High Court judge to probe the matter. The demand for Ajay Mishra Teni’s dismissal from the Union Government is pending.

The agreement with the administration on October 4 was only to pave the way for the last rites of the martyrs to be performed. The key demands of SKM remain, and it will soon announce a programme of action for getting these demands met.

In this regard the SKM called upon all farmers’ organisations across the country to protest at Government offices in all districts on October 4 to press for the above demands. It appealed to everyone participating in the farmers' movement to continue their protests peacefully and non-violently, as they have done through the past ten months.

The SKM said its movement recognises the various dirty ways in which BJP-RSS forces are desperately trying to break it, and will combat any such attempts by holding on to satya and ahimsa [truth and non-violence].

From the night of October 3 itself there were spontaneous protests in response to the massacre in Lakhimpur Kheri. There were candlelight marches and rallies taken out in Ambala, Kurukshetra, Chandigarh and other places. In Puranpur and elsewhere, highways were jammed by protesting farmers.

On October 4 thousands of farmers poured into Tikunia, at the site of the violent incidents, where the bodies of the martyrs were kept. That day and the next, large protests were organised at DC/DM offices and other locations in places across the country. Reports of protests came in from Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal and other states.

A protest organised outside Uttar Pradesh Bhawan in New Delhi ended with scores of protestors being picked up and detained for many hours by the Delhi Police at the Mandir Marg Police Station.

In stark contrast to the violence let loose by the BJP governments and their leaders, the farmers’ movement marked the birth anniversaries of Mahatma Gandhi and Lal Bahadur Shastri on October 2 with respect and renewed inspiration. A day-long fast was observed in the morchas to mark the occasion.

Across India, farmers’ groups organised events to mark the day in memory of the two great leaders who shaped our nation's independence, destiny and ethos towards rural India. “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan”, a slogan coined and made popular by Shastriji, reverberates to this day in the farmers’ movement, which has been running peacefully for the last ten months based on the strength of Satya and Ahimsa, the touchstones of Gandhiji’s Satyagraha philosophy. It will continue to do so.

Ashok Dhawale is the president of the All India Kisan Sabha