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It's 10 months, yet govt hasn't rendered any justice: farmers protest at Lakhimpur Kheri

By Harsh Thakor* 

Ajay Mishra Teni continues to be in the Union Cabinet even 10 months after the Lakhimpur Kheri massacre, which is a travesty on the law and order situation of the country. This was uppermost in the mind of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), which launched a 72 hour dharna there. Tens of thousands of peasants converged from Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Uttarkhand to project their demands.
Mishra’s son Ashish Mishra is among the accused in the case filed after the violence which took place in the district’s Tikonia area during the protest against the now rescinded farm laws. As many as eight people, including four farmers, were killed when a convoy of vehicles, including one allegedly belonging to Ajay Mishra, ran over them on October 3, 2021. In the ensuing violence, two BJP workers, the driver of one of the vehicles, and a journalist were also killed.
Earlier SKM organised a Protest Against Betrayal in 500 districts for legal guarantee of minimum support price and other pending demands. On July 31, a chakka jam was held encompassing the nation. This was followed by the programme to expose the Agnipath scheme, for which SKM organised Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan conventions across the country from August 7 to August 14 .
Most of the farmers’ organizations that had been suspended from SKM at the time of the Punjab elections seemed to have returned to its fold. SKM leaders Darshan Pal, Yogendra Yadav, Buta Singh Burgill, Medha Patkar, Dr Ashish Mittal, Ranajit Singh, Ravi Azad, and others paid homage to the five martyrs, comprising 4 farmers and 1 journalist, who were trounced by a vehicle belonging to the minister. They demanded the punishment of the culprits responsible for their murder, highlighting Ajay Mishra’s responsibility.
The framing of farmer leaders and activists was highlighted. The leaders regretted that even after 10 months the government had rendered no justice. The demand of minimum support price was raised. Uttar Pradesh leaders touched upon the need for regular electricity supply, opposed pre-paid metres on gharelu (household) connections, insisting on 300 electricity units free on any gharelu connection. Chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s alleged attempts to subdue the protest was also touched upon.
Other issues raised were growing repression on the farmers and human rights movements, especially referring to foisting “false” cases against farmers leader Ashish Mittal in Allahabad, lathi-charging farmers protesting against Adani’s high-voltage wire in Farakka, Bengal, and repression of protesting farmers in Chhattisgarh.
Leaders also registered their protest against the arrests of social activists and journalists such as Teesta Setalvad, RB Sreekumar and Muhammad Zubair, stating, these incidents indicate increasing repression on democratic rights across the country.
Preparations for the meeting were meticulous. Joginder Singh Ugrahan, president of Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan), and one of the members of SKM’s coordination committee, said, “Over 2,000 farmers from our union went towards Lakhimpur Kheri in buses… One bus was accompanied by a jeep or car for safety. All the unions started from different locations in Punjab but we all gathered at Kundli border in the outskirts of Delhi so as to go together.”
As several groups reached Lakhimpur Kheri from railway stations of Barnala and Mansa among others, including members of BKU Dakaunda, Krantikari Kisan Union, Kirti Kisan Union, BKU Kadian etc., BKU leader Rakesh Tikait insisted, “The country’s farmers are prepared to launch a sustained battle.”
BKU (Tikait)’s district president Dilbagh Singh said, “Around two months back, the SKM had held a meeting held in Delhi and decided to organise a dharna in Lakhimpur Kheri in support of various demands that include a law to guarantee minimum support price for crops to protect the interest of farmers.”
The three day protest of SKM at Lakhimpur Kheri concluded at 3 pm on August 20 after the administration prohibited a march from Rajapur Mandi to be held, illustrating how much the protest had embarrassed the authorities in their very backyard, the farmers launched sit-ins relentlessly not yielding or backing out. The farmers began sit in, though the leaders conceded on the assurance that their demands would be redressed. It was decided to hold protest in Delhi on September 6.
A memorandum with a set of demands of the Uttar Pradesh farmers was presented, which sought punishment of all culprits like Ajay Mishra Treni, allegedly responsible for murder of four farmers and a journalist, and unconditional release of all activists imprisoned on “fabricated” charges.
The demands also included opposition to the Swaminathan Commission advocating C-2 and K formula which stripped guarantee of minimum support price; scrapping of the electricity bill; withdrawal of paid metres and installing metres on connections; 300 units of free electricity to each connection; subsidizing of payment seeds for farmers; and compensation to all families of decease farmers.
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*Freelance journalist

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