A Politician’s Convoy Ran Into Protesters. Nine People Have Died Since.

India’s farmer protests, which launched last year, have been violently suppressed before.   

Oct 4 2021, 1:57pm

Nine people, including four farmers and a journalist, were killed on Sunday after a minister’s convoy drove through protesters in Lakhimpur Kheri district in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. The minister was not in the convoy at the time. 

Four farmers were killed after being hit by the car, according to the Indian Express. Others died in the violence that followed. The charging convoy, which included official government cars, belonged to India's Deputy Home Minister Ajay Kumar Mishra, who has staunchly opposed the farmer protests. 

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Tejinder Singh Virk, a leading figure in India’s farmer protests, was also injured and is currently recuperating at a hospital in New Delhi. The organisers of the protest claim that Mishra's son Ashish Mishra was in one of the cars involved in the incident. 

Samyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of dozens of farmers’ unions, issued a statement alleging that one of the four farmers was shot dead by Ashish Mishra. The minister has claimed that neither he nor his son were in the convoy at the time, and that four of their party supporters died in the violence. 

A police complaint was registered in Lakhimpur Kheri against Mishra, his son and 13 others on charges including murder and rioting, but a warrant for their arrest has yet to be issued.

It has been a year since India's farmers launched massive protests against farm laws introduced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government in 2020. Back then, protesters blocked roads and highways leading to the capital New Delhi. Farmers have continued their protests since November, claiming that the laws favour corporate buyers and threaten their livelihoods. 

A protester is detained by police on Oct. 4 during a demonstration in New Delhi against the violence in Lakhimpur on Sunday in which at least nine people were killed. Photo: Money Sharma / AFP

As protests erupted across India on Monday—some organised by farmers, some by rights groups and students, and some by politicians from opposition parties—authorities imposed a lockdown and an internet blackout in Lakhimpur Kheri.

Sudha N, a representative of the National Alliance of People’s Movements, an activist organisation, led a protest in Jaipur city in solidarity with the protesting farmers. “People are not being allowed to go into Lakhimpur Kheri,” where around 40 people have gathered in protest, she said. “Political leaders have been detained, including a number of farmers attached to political parties. There is an internet shut-off so it’s very hard to exchange information. Apart from the physical lockdown, there is also an electronic lockdown as well.”

Activists of India's Youth Congress face police barricades at a demonstration in New Delhi on Oct 4, a day after clashes involving farmers who were protesting against agricultural reforms at Lakhimpur. Photo: Money Sharma/ AFP

Some members of parties that rival Modi’s, including Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party and Senior Congress party leader Priyanka Gandhi, were detained and arrested after they attempted to travel to Lakhimpur Kheri.

Following Sunday's incident, the protesting farmers made three demands: the removal of Ajay Mishra from his position, the arrest of his son, and a Supreme Court investigation into the matter. 

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In its official Twitter account, the Uttar Pradesh Police called the incident in Lakhimpur 'unfortunate', and said the situation is under control after it increased the number of police officers to prevent the violence from escalating. VICE World News was unable to reach the police for comment. 

The farmers’ protests have continued amidst the raging COVID-19 pandemic, which has left 449,000 dead and daily caseloads reaching around 20,000. 

In January, protesting farmers stormed New Delhi in tractors, horses and on foot, but the protest was quickly suppressed by government forces who bore down violently on the protesters and cleared tents where they had been camping out for months. One person died in the scuffle. 

In August, in the northern Haryana state, one farmer was killed and 10 others injured as police suppressed a protest against the new farm laws.

Follow Kris Thomas on Twitter.

Tagged:

India, World News, south asia, worldnews, Farmers protest, worldnews-protest

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