For the third consecutive day, the lower house of the Parliament witnessed a protest by the Opposition leaders, demanding discussion on the Lakhimpur Kheri violence of October 3 — wherein four farmers were mowed down by a vehicle linked to the Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra Teni. In the retaliatory violence, four others, including a journalist, were allegedly killed by the infuriated mob.
Troubles have been mounting for the controversial junior home minister Teni since the Special Investigation Team (SIT) submitted before the local Chief Judicial Magistrate on December 13 that the violence was a “planned conspiracy” and not a result of criminal negligence as claimed earlier.
The SIT has requested that the previous penal provisions be replaced with more stringent sections like 307 (attempt to murder), 326 (voluntarily causing injuries by dangerous weapons), 34 (acts by several persons with common intentions) and sections 3/25/30 of the Arms Act.
In view of the upcoming Uttar Pradesh elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met BJP parliamentarians from the state over breakfast at his official residence on Lok Kalyan Marg this morning. Teni, however, was reportedly conspicuous by his absence from the meeting.
Teni is also under fire for his shocking outburst against journalists at Lakhimpur Kheri two days ago. A viral video showed him losing his cool on being asked about new SIT charges against his accused son.
“Union Minister Ajay Misra Abuses ABP Reporter When Questioned About Lakhimpur Violence Case”, a report carried by the ABP live claimed, “When questioned about the SIT charges against his son Ashish, Union Minister gets angry and shouts at the journalist, saying, ‘Don'task these stupid questions. Are you mad?’”
He was also heard as saying that it was because of the media that an innocent person was in jail. A defiant TV channel, however, declared through its coverage of the event and also on Twitter that “ABP News” wasn’t afraid of asking questions.
Repeatedly insisting that his son, Ashish Mishra, was innocent, Teni had defended him immediately after he had allegedly mowed down the protesting farmers. Even though the first-information report registered by the Uttar Pradesh police on 4 October had named Ashish Mishra as an accused besides “15-20 unknown persons,” he was arrested after five days.
Earlier in October, a purported video of the junior home minister had shown him warning protesting farmers that he would discipline them in “two minutes” if they didn’t leave the protest site. “I’m not only a minister or an MP and MLA. People who know me even before I became a Parliamentarian know that I never run away from taking a challenge. The day I accept the challenge you all have to leave not only Palia (a place) but Lakhimpur itself,” he was heard saying in the video clip.
Speaking in the Lok Sabha on December 16, Thursday, Rahul Gandhi, a Congress leader, dubbed Mishra as a“criminal Minister”, demanding that he be sacked from the Cabinet. Alleging minister’s direct involvement, Gandhi said, “Action should be taken against his criminal act…”
Priyanka Gandhi, Congress general secretary, described Narendra Modi government’s in action against the accused union minister as “moral bankruptcy”.
“Narendra Modi ji, carefully curated spectacles of piety and wearing religious attire will not change the fact that you are protecting a criminal…Ajay Mishra Teni should be sacked and charged in accordance with the law,” she wrote on Twitter.
Farooq Abdullah, president of the National Conference and former union minister, told media, “I think he should resign...PM should take his resignation. Only then will the House be quiet. People will also feel the PM is taking democracy forward.”
Talking to reporters during his Vijay Yatra at Jaunpur, Akhilesh Yadav, Samajwadi Party president said, “it has become clear that as a part of a conspiracy, the people associated with the BJP had killed the farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri by crushing them. If the BJP has morality left, it should immediately sack the minister who is also an accused in the case.”
Earlier, Sanjay Singh, Aam Aadmi Party MP, had asked PM Narendra Modi as to why he was siding with those who had attacked journalists and farmers.
While the farmer-leaders from different unions have also demanded dismissal of the minister and strict legal action against him, Asaduddin Owaisi, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief, said, “From day one, we’ve been saying that it is a pre-planned murder. Modi government should suspend Ajay Mishra. I'm very sure that PM will not suspend him because he needs that minister's upper caste votes in upcoming UP polls.”
Many in Uttar Pradesh's political circles also feel that it would be difficult for the Modi government to sack a Brahmin muscleman politician in view of the reports that Brahmins were already alienated with the Adityanath government. Teni’s sacking could cement the anti-Brahmin narrative and intensify Brahmins’ growing resentment against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of the crucial state elections.
The 61-year-old union minister was first elected from Uttar Pradesh’s Nighasan assembly seat in 2012. He went on to win Lok Sabha polls in 2014 from Kheri constituency, defeating Anand Giri, a Bahujan Samaj Party candidate. In 2019, he retained the seat after defeating a Samajwadi Party candidate.
Last month, the Supreme Court had appointed Rakesh Kumar Jain, a retired Punjab and Haryana High Court judge to monitor the probe into the Lakhimpur Kheri incident. Recently, the Uttar Pradesh government had told the Allahabad High Court that the statements of “a large number of eyewitnesses” were yet to be recorded, seeking two weeks time to file its reply in response to Ashish Mishra’s bail plea.