BJP minister's son Ashish Mishra’s car mowed down journalist Raman Kashyap: Eyewitness

Protestors destroy a car, which was among the convoy that plowed through farmers, killing four, on 3 October 2021, in Lakhimpur Kheri district’s Tikunia village, in Uttar Pradesh. That day, at least seven people were killed after a Bharatiya Janata Party leader’s son charged his convoy into the back of farmers, who were returning from a protest. A journalist, Raman Kashyap, was also among the dead. Courtesy Anil Kumar Maurya
09 October, 2021

An eyewitness to the sequence of events that led to the carnage in Lakhimpur Kheri, on 3 October, told The Caravan that he saw Ashish Mishra’s car run down Raman Kashyap, a journalist who was among those killed. Anil Kumar Maurya, also a journalist, is the Bahraich district head for the news channel The Dastak 24. Anil said that he was standing right next to Kashyap, exchanging visiting cards with him, when a black SUV with Ashish, locally referred to as “Monu bhaiyya,” plowed through the crowd of farmers from behind, then lost control and veered off the road into the fields. As he narrated the incident, Anil also said that after the black SUV lost control and plunged into the fields, while the enraged farmers pulled out the driver, another farmer, later identified as Gurvinder Singh, caught hold of Ashish, who was trying to make his way through the sugarcane fields. It was at this moment, Anil said, that he heard gun shots and saw Gurvinder collapse, even as the police helped Ashish escape.

“The crux is that Raman Kashyap was mowed down and killed by Monu Mishra’s car,” Anil said. According to him, “The atmosphere before this whole episode was so light and safe, with the tired farmers returning home after the peacefully waving black flags.” He said that the gathered crowd, including journalists, did not “suspect or perceive even the slightest of possibility of violence.”

While the state police filed a first information on the incident on 4 October, which named Ashish as an accused along with “15-20 unknown persons,” Ashish is yet to be arrested. The FIR has been registered under eight sections of the Indian Penal Code, including section 302, which pertains to murder, and section 304-A, regarding death by negligence. On 7 October, the police issued a notice to Ashish under Section 160 of the code of criminal procedure, which deals with attendance of witnesses, and asked him to appear at the Tikunia Police Station on 8 October. Legal experts have raised questions about how an accused in a murder case has been summoned under this section. Ashish ignored this summon and did not turn up. The police then issued a similar notice on 8 October, and asked Ashish to present himself the next day. According to NDTV, on 9 October, Ashish arrived for questioning at the Tikunia station, escorted by several police officials. The Caravan reached out to the superintendent of police of Lakhimpur Kheri, Vijay Dhull, and the additional SP Arun Kumar, neither of whom responded to calls or text messages.    

Anil told me that on 3 October, he had gone to Lakhimpur Kheri’s Banveerpur village to cover a wrestling event at the house of the union minister of state for home affairs, Ajay Mishra Teni—Ashish’s father and a leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. “I reached the house of Ajay Mishra Teni at around 12 pm, and was present at the dangal being organised at the house till 1.30 or so. There were three or four more journalist friends along with me.” Anil added that the deputy chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, “Keshav Prasad Maurya was supposed to land at the helipad at around 2.15 pm. And I reached the ground at around this time. Farmers with black flags were standing along the sides of the road.” The helipad is at Tikunia village, around five to seven kilometres from Banveerpur. Maurya and eight other members of the legislative assembly were expected to reach the helipad and then make their way to Banveerpur.

As The Caravan had reported earlier, the genesis of the black flag protest lay in another incident a few days before 3 October. Teni had been shown black flags by protesting farmers at another event in the district’s Palia town. Offended by the black flags, Teni then gave 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. Consequently, farmers decided to escalate their black flag protest, this time at the helipad on 3 October. Anil said that “the farmers had not come to create a ruckus, that was not the mood of the gathering.”

Anil said that the crowd waited around for the next hour or so but the minister did not show up. “It was 3 pm, well past his expected time of arrival. Maurya’s helicopter, we were told, had to divert and could not land at the said time.” The protesting farmers then started dispersing from the protest site.

Anil said that it was at this point that at least four cars came there—one white car and three black SUVS. “The first white car passed through easily. In fact, the farmers were themselves giving way to the cars, peacefully standing along the road.” The journalist said that Teni’s another son was in the white car, which was given passage peacefully. “But the black SUV came from behind and mowed down the unsuspecting farmers.” Over the past few days, several videos of the incident have emerged on social media, which show farmers peacefully walking away from the protest site and two speeding black SUVs running through the crowd. 

Anil told me that as the first car crossed, he was speaking to Kashyap at the time, and was handing over his visiting card. The journalist said that within seconds a black SUV turned up and ran through the crowd, hitting Kashyap, among others. “I lost Kashyap’s card in the frenzy that followed. Then I, too, ran for my life since I was hit by lathis at multiple places.” He said that after mowing down the protestors, two of the black SUVs, which were being driven at high speeds, lost control and veered off into the sugarcane fields along the road. “What happened subsequently amidst the angered and anguished gathering is known to everybody.”

Anil then told me that as the cars floundered in the fields, enraged farmers pulled out the driver of one of the cars. He said that one of the farmers, 19-year-old Gurvinder, a resident of Nanpara subdivision, of the neighbouring Bahraich district, caught hold of Monu and held on to him tightly, even as Monu tried to escape into the sugarcane fields. It was at this moment, that Anil said that he heard gun shots and saw Gurvinder collapse. “Sardar ji jou hamare Nanpara ke thei, kaske pakde thei Monu Mishra kou. Phir goli chali aur Sardar ji mar gaye”—Sardar ji, who is from Nanpara was holding Monu Mishra tightly. Then gun shots were fired and Sardar ji died. Anil said that as Monu tried to run away into the fields, several protestors chased him and tried to catch hold of him “but the police and administration prevented them from doing so.”

Anil told me that he was injured but he kept looking for Kashyap till midnight as the administration refused to let him go back to the actual site. He was accompanied by another reporter of Bahraich, and they returned home at about 3 am that night. As he talked about Kashyap, Anil told me that Kashyap used to cover the Nighasan assembly constituency of Lakhimpur Kheri.  “I couldn’t save him. One moment he was there and the next, he was gone. Main apne dost kou, apne patrakar saathi kou bachaa nahin paaya”—I could not save my friend, my fellow journalist. Anil added that everybody heard gunshots and “the police is blatantly denying it. It is so painful and unfortunate that the reporters are being mercilessly killed while BJP is shielding those responsible for the murders.”