Eight killed in UP after convoy linked to union minister runs over farmer protesters

A convoy linked to the BJP leader and union minister of state for home affairs, Ajay Mishra Teni, ran over farmer protesters gathered in UP’s Lakhimpur Kheri district. At least four farmers were killed. In all, eight people have died, including three BJP workers and a driver of one of the vehicles. ANI / Hindustan Times
Elections 2024
03 October, 2021

At least four farmer protestors were killed after cars in a cavalcade associated with the minister of state for home affairs, Ajay Mishra Teni, ran over protesting farmers near Tikunia town in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri district on 3 October. Protesters present at the scene accused Teni’s son, Ashish, of leading the violence, alleging that Ashish and his men ran their SUVs over the farmers. Angered by the attack, the farmers set fire to two of the vehicles that had been used to charge at them. In all, eight people have died. Four farmers died in the attack, while several others were seriously injured. The deceased also included three workers of the BJP, as well as the driver of one of the vehicles.

Teni is a member of the Lok Sabha from the Kheri constituency, of which Lakhimpur Kheri district is a part. A few days earlier, after he was shown black flags by protesting farmers at another event in the district’s Palia town, Teni had given a threatening speech: “Sudhar jao, nahi toh hum aapko sudhaar denge, do minute lagega keval” (You better mend your ways, or we will teach you a lesson, it will only take a couple of minutes). Hours after the incident, Teni released a video to the media denying that his son was present at the scene. He accused the farmer protesters of killing the BJP workers and the driver. He claimed that protesters had pelted stones at the cavalcade, causing the cars to run out of control. “If my son would have been there, he would not have come out alive,” Teni said. He demanded that the protesters responsible be charged with murder.

The farmers who died included 60-year-old Nakshattar Singh, 20-year-old Lovepreet Singh, 19-year-old Gurvinder Singh and 35-year-old Daljit Singh. Nakshattar resided in a village in Dhaurahra subdivision, and Lovepreet in Palia Kalan village, both in Lakhimpur Kheri district. Gurvinder and Daljit were residents of Nanpara subdivision, of the neighbouring Bahraich district. The identity of the BJP workers and the driver who died is not known.

The Samyukta Kisan Morch, or SKM, the umbrella organisation that has been leading the farmers’ protests against the centre’s proposed agricultural reforms since last year, held a virtual press conference within hours of the incident. It demanded that Teni be dismissed, and the minister and his son, as well as their other associates, be charged with murder. In a press note issued later in the evening, the SKM called the attack “brutal and inhuman.” The note said that local farmer Tajinder Singh Virk had been seriously injured in the incident. It added: “SKM also warns BJP leaders of Uttar Pradesh to stop provoking farmers of the state.”

We spoke to Richa Singh, who was present at the protest and narrated the sequence of events. Richa said that the farmers had gathered near Tikunia because Teni and the UP deputy chief minister, Keshav Prasad Maurya, were due to attend an event in the village. The farmers marched and surrounded the helipad on which Maurya’s helicopter was supposed to land, Richa said. In a video posted to social media on the afternoon on 3 October, farmer protesters can be seen marching to the helipad, sloganeering and holding up black flags. “A tractor arrived, and that became our stage,” Richa said. “It was very peaceful, we were just putting our point forward. People had come from many districts.”

According to her, some farmers, including the local leader Virk, asked members of the police and the district administration to change Maurya’s route, as the gathering aimed to prevent the helicopter from landing. “We said we would not follow them on the new route,” Richa told us. “With that, our protest was registered. That’s it.” She said that once it was clear that Maurya would not be coming via helicopter, the protesters began winding up. “By around 2.15 pm, those who had come from faraway districts had begun to leave.”

While the farmers were turning back, Richa said, vehicles with BJP flags arrived. “They came suddenly. Ajay Mishra’s son Ashish arrived with ten or fifteen persons in a few vehicles bearing the BJP flags. They ran the cars over the young protesters who were walking by the side of the road, mauling them.” According to her, the vehicles ran off the road into the fields as well, running over other protesters. She said that the farmers were angered, and chaos and clashes ensued. Eventually, the protestors surrounded the vehicles, and set fire to two cars. Some of the men from the cars ran away, Richa said. Videos circulating on social media also suggest that farmer protesters attacked and beat up the workers in the cars.

Kranti Singh, another protesting farmer who was an eyewitness too, also said that Ashish led the charge against the protesters. Kranti further claimed that many at the site had witnessed the BJP workers firing bullets as well. Speaking to the media after the incident, another farmer too alleged that Ashish and his men had fired guns at the farmers. However, according to a report in the Indian Express, “police … denied that the protesters were fired at.” Kranti said that with Virk injured, the farmers were waiting for Tikait to arrive before registering a formal police complaint.

“It was so horrific,” Richa, who was at the hospital when we spoke to her, said. “I saw two young deaths—one died on the spot and another succumbed in the hospital.” She added, “In a planned manner, these cars trampled protesters who were just protesting peacefully with flags—there are no two ways about this.”

According to Ashish Patel, a lawyer-activist who resides in Lakhimpur Kheri and is involved with the farmers’ protest, several people were seriously injured. “They straightaway trampled the farmers. So many have broken arms and legs,” Patel said. He added that the farmers had been upset at Teni’s threat in his earlier speech, and intended to register their opposition to it by protesting. “This is a violation of constitutional rights,” he said.

The SKM press note said that various leaders of the group had left in the evening on 3 October for Lakhimpur Kheri. The farmer leader Rakesh Tikait also left for the site that evening. According to news reports, various other political leaders, including the Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, members of the Congress administration in Punjab, as well as leaders from the Trinamool Congress and the Samajwadi Party, are due to arrive at Lakhimpur Kheri on 4 October. The UP police reportedly detained Priyanka early in the morning before she could reach the district.

Our messages to senior police officials in the district, asking for comments on the violence and the action being taken, remained unanswered at the time of publishing this piece. Soon after the attack, the UP police began a strong deployment in the area. Late in the night, the UP Police posted a tweet describing the incident as “unfortunate,” and noted that senior police officials had arrived in the area. Meanwhile, protests erupted in other parts of the state and in Haryana, against the violence on farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri. The government shut down internet services in Lakhimpur on the evening of 3 October.