Lakhimpur Kheri: Sidhu on ‘hunger strike’, takes pledge of silence until arrest

Sidhu, the former Punjab Congress chief, reached Lakhimpur Kheri in the afternoon after a tussle with the Uttar Pradesh Police, began a “hunger strike” outside journalist Raman Kashyap’s house.

Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal on Friday demanded justice for the eight people killed in Lakhimpur Kheri district on October 3. Harsimrat called for the removal of Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra and the arrest of his son Ashish Mishra. Ashish is accused of driving one of the cars that ran over people who had assembled at the site of the protest at Tikonia crossing, killing four farmers.

Sidhu, the former Punjab Congress chief, reached Lakhimpur Kheri in the afternoon after a tussle with the Uttar Pradesh Police, began a “hunger strike” outside journalist Raman Kashyap’s house, and took a pledge of silence till justice is served and Ashish Mishra is arrested. Though Kashyap’s name does not figure among those who were mowed down by the vehicle, the journalist’s family has claimed that he too was run over by the car Ashish Mishra allegedly drove.

Sidhu said Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had inspired him to visit Lakhimpur Kheri to stand with the families of the victims. The Punjab Congress leader met the families of the four farmers killed in the violence.

“There is evidence, there are names in the FIR, there are witnesses. Arrests have not been made because a minister’s son is among those accused… If the protector becomes the one to torture, then who do the poor turn to?” Sidhu asked.

The Congress leader said it was a matter of “human rights”, and said, “The image of the ugly politician has to be erased, justice delayed is justice denied… Justice cannot adopt dual standards. Thus, till the son of the minister is arrested I will sit on hunger strike here and I will keep my words to myself. and I will not flinch.”

Earlier in the day, SAD leader and former Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who led her party’s delegation to the Uttar Pradesh district, told reporters in Lucknow, “The minister who publicly says that he will teach farmers a lesson and warns them to mend their ways… what do you think he tells his son amid the four walls of their home?”

Harsimrat, who quit the Narendra Modi government last year in protest against the agricultural laws that have drawn the ire of a large section of Indian farmers, claimed that it appeared that there were different sets of laws for the children of ministers and the others. “Sarkar ke bachchon ke liye alag kanoon hai [There are separate laws for the children of government ministers],” she said, adding that while the voice of farmers was being crushed since last year, now farm workers were being literally crushed in public.

Before leaving for Lakhimpur Kheri, the former Union minister told reporters at the airport, “There is a video, eyewitness, everything is in the public domain, court has taken suo motu notice. But after five days neither has the minister been removed nor has his son been arrested. We demand that ‘Monu’ [Ashish] Mishra be arrested, the minister be dismissed, and the families of the eight people who have died be properly compensated. They should be given government jobs and the justice that they demand.”

Meanwhile, a day after meeting the families of the farmers killed in the violence, Samajwadi Party (SP) president and former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav reached Bahraich to meet the family members of the other victims. He again pressed for the removal of Ajay Mishra from the Union Council of Ministers, and demanded the arrest of Ashish Mishra. Since policemen were required to salute the minister as per protocol, how could they fairly interrogate his son, Yadav asked.

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