Tajinder Singh Virk, a 48-year-old who led the farmers’ protest held in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri on 3 October, has alleged that the cars that ran over protesters that day were also targeting him. The cars—linked to the minister of state for home affairs, Ajay Mishra Teni—ran over several protesters including Virk. The farmer leader sustained multiple fractures on his skull and body. “The videos that I am seeing, everyone was there in a 500-metre stretch. They crossed people for 400 metres, came ahead and hit the area where I was standing,” Virk said. “Some people were looking out from the Thar”—the first car that rammed into the farmers—“to identify that ‘we have to hit here.’” Virk survived the incident with grievous injuries. He spoke to The Caravan while he was still recovering in a hospital.
Angered by the attack, farmers set fire to two of the vehicles that had been used to charge at them. In all, eight people died in the violence—four farmers, two Bharatiya Janata Party workers, a driver of one of the cars and a journalist. Several others sustained injuries. Farmers accused Teni’s son, Ashish Mishra, of being a part of the cavalcade that ran over protesters. While Teni denied his son’s presence at the incident, the Uttar Pradesh Police arrested Ashish on 9 October.
In the last week of September, Teni was shown black flags by protesting farmers at another event in the district’s Palia town. He had then 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. In response to this, Virk had given a call for a protest in Lakhimpur Kheri on 3 October—a day when Teni and the deputy chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Keshav Prasad Maurya, were due to attend an event in the district. Virk, a native of Uttarakhand’s Rudrapur, is the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha’s coordinator for the state of Uttar Pradesh and a member of the national core committee of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, an umbrella organisation of several farmers’ organisations. Virk is also the national president of another farmers’ organisation, Terai Kisan Sangathan.