Lakhimpur Kheri to hurt BJP in UP polls, say farmers’ leaders

Politics of communal polarisation BJP’s sole tool: Prashant Kanojia

Politics

October 7, 2021

/ By / New Delhi

Lakhimpur Kheri to hurt BJP in UP polls, say farmers’ leaders

Eight, including four farmers, were killed in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence (Photo: PTI)

The mowing down of protesting farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri in Uttar Pradesh by cars belonging to Bharatiya Janata Party has put the ruling party clearly on the backfoot as enraged farmers are likely to pay back the party at the ballot box in the forthcoming assembly elections. Opposition parties as well as farmers’ leaders say that the killings and the response by the government reveals the true face of BJP.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court began hearing a public interest litigation into the death of 8 persons, including farmers, at Lakhimpur Kheri on Sunday. The PIL was registered at the direction of the top court as more details of the incident in which three cars belonging to a union minister mowed down protesting farmers without any apparent provocation emerged. Subsequently, angry farmers had allegedly burnt one of the cars and a total of eight persons died in the violence, including four who had been mowed down by the speeding vehicles.

The court took up the hearing even as the Uttar Pradesh government finally allowed opposition leaders, notably Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi of the Congress party, to visit the bereaved families after detaining Priyanka Gandhi and several other leaders to prevent them from meeting the families.

At the hearing, the court has asked the UP government about the action taken by it in this matter, specially if any arrests had been made of people responsible for the killings.

The decision by the top court to take it upon itself into hearing the case has been widely welcomed by the farmers’ leaders as well as the opposition parties which have accused the UP government and the police of not even taking any cognisance of the incident, let alone acting against the accused.

“We always have high expectations from the Supreme Court and we are glad that it has taken the matter up on its own. So we hope to get justice from the Court to put an end to the injustices being meted out by the government. It is also the responsibility of the court to protect the Constitution and the people’s rights and liberties. So let’s see what steps the court will take in this regard,” Comrade Satyawan Singh, national president of AIKKMS, tells Media India Group.

Many farmers believe that the incident was not an accident, instead it had been planned and executed in cold blood. They cite a viral video where Ashish Mishra, the son of Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra, who was allegedly driving one of the three cars, saying that if the farmers refused to withdraw their protest, they can end the protest in a matter of minutes, a barely veiled threat of violence.

“This Lakhimpur Kheri incident was a well thought and well planned incident that was carried out by the son of the state’s home minister’s son. They used their personal car. Till now the attacks on farmers were carried out by the administration but as the BJP could not crush the protest they did this. On September 25, the speech that Ashish Mishra gave he actually went and did that,” says Satyawan Singh.

Satyawan Singh says that the incident should not be seen in isolation, but is the outcome of a series which show the attitude of the government and the ruling party towards the farmers and their protest that the BJP leaders have been defaming.

“The Prime Minister himself called the farmers’ protest dishonest and has time and again literally abused the Opposition. Then the ruthless police firing ordered by the brother of Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on people whose homes  were being demolished in Dholpur in Assam that led to two persons’ death. Then there was the speech by the union minister’s son before the Lakhimpur incident. There was also a statement by Haryana Chief Minister M L Khattar asking his party members to pick up sticks and attack farmers. All these incidents are part of a chain and when you look at the entirety of the image and the incidents together, it reflects the fascist approach of the ruling party,” says Singh.

It is not just the farmers, but even the opposition parties that allege that the killing was nothing but cold-blooded murder and shows the impunity with which the ruling party and its members commit crimes, thinking they can get away with it. The opposition leaders caution that the incident will seriously hurt BJP. “With this incident, the image of the ruling party has absolutely taken a significant beating. Earlier, many people used to oppose the farmers protesting on the borders, but this incident that involves a minister’s son has definitely created a disturbing image of the ruling party not only within the farming community but also among the general public. They begin to think that how can they crush 4-5 farmers and then have the audacity to refuse to accept that the son was not even there? When people see that video it is very disturbing to watch it. They will question the government,” says Prashant Kanojia, a journalist-turned-politician.

Kanojia goes on to say that the incident will also have an impact on the outcome of the forthcoming assembly elections in UP, slated for early next year.

“The Lakhimpur Kheri incident will definitely have an impact on the upcoming elections. And it is not just this incident, but the farmers protest that has been going on for over 11 months. This has created an impression among the farmers that the government doesn’t care about them and they might become more adamant on the draconian law maybe in future. The farmers feels that their bargaining power is reducing day by day with the way the government is behaving. The farming community is very dominant is western UP, Haryana and Punjab. So they now feel that they have to fight for their existence. The protest is no longer about a law or two, but it has become a symbol to preserve the existence of the farming community and they have a very influential voice in Indian elections,” Kanojia, who is national president of SC/ST wing of the Rashtriya Lok Dal Party, tells Media India Group.

The farmers as well as the politicians believe that in order to get out of the hole that it has dug for itself by mishandling the incident, in order to the ruling party will resort to the use of the only tool that it has for gaining votes.

“The government, however, is very confident that they can still do this as they feel that they have the power of communal polarisation. They feel this division of people on grounds of their religious beliefs can help them overpower any big issue in India. It can be any issue, from farmers’ issue, to mob lynching and even the recent Pandora papers issue as these are never covered by key media organisations. So, the government feels that if they have the Hindu Muslim binary which they will create during the election and this will overcome every situation and challenge,” says Kanojia.

The farmers believe that this time the ruling party will not be able to get away with it. “The BJP thinks that by doing all this and by taking such harsh steps it can still stay in power just like it did in Gujarat. But this is not Gujarat. This will go against the party. Till now people might have overlooked the things that they did but the farmer is a farmer, and it is the soul of the country, and the way they attacked the soul of the country, they will have to pay a heavy price for that. The BJP will have to go from UP and this will be just the beginning,” warns Satyawan Singh.

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