LUCKNOW: In a major development, almost two and a half months after the incident of violence which rocked Lakhimpur Kheri, the sugar bowl of Uttar Pradesh, claiming eight lives, including four farmers and a local journalist, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) has concluded that the incident was ‘pre-planned’ and not an act of negligence and accident.
Ashish Mishra, the son of Union Minister of State for Home, Ajay Mishra ‘Teni’, is the key accused in the case along with 13 others.
Moreover, the SIT has also sought to add several sections of IPC pertaining to the attempt to murder and other charges against all the 14 accused in the case. The SIT has added Section 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 326 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means) and 34 (Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention).
The accused were presented in court on Tuesday. Senior Public Prosecutor, Lakhimpur Kheri, S P Yadav said the SIT requested the court that besides IPC Sections 307, 326, 34, Sections 3, 25 and 30 of the Arms Act should also be invoked against all 13, in addition to the charges mentioned in the FIR (of murder and criminal conspiracy, among others). The court is yet to decide on the SIT’s application.
The SIT also urged the court to drop three IPC Sections against the accused, including 279 (for rash driving), 338 (causing grievous hurt by acts endangering life or personal safety of others) and 304 A (death by negligence).
The Chief Investigating Officer (IO) of SIT, Vidyaram Diwakar submitted the probe report in the court and claimed that it was not a case of accidental death while driving negligently. “There is a case of conspiracy to crush the mob, murder and attempt to murder as per a well-thought-out conspiracy,” said the IO in the report.
However, the Supreme Court had also taken cognizance of the matter and had directed the Special Investigation Team to complete the investigation expeditiously. The Supreme Court had appointed retired Punjab and Haryana High Court judge, Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain, to monitor the probe into the incident. The bench headed by Chief Justice NV Ramana had upgraded the Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the case by incorporating three IPS officers — SB Shiradkar, Padmaja Chauhan and Preetinder Singh, who all do not belong to UP Cadre — “to preserve the faith and trust of people in the criminal administration of the justice system”.
It may be recalled that on October 3, four farmers were mowed down by an SUV Thar Mahindra being allegedly driven by Ashish Mishra when he ploughed into a crowd of protesting farmers under Tikunia police station in Lakhimpur Kheri. The farmers were protesting against the scheduled visit of UP deputy CM Keshav Maurya and also the MoS Ajay Mishra Teni who had organized an event to which Maurya was invited.
Following the death of four farmers, the furious crowd caught hold of two BJP workers and a driver of Ajay Mishra and lynched them in the spot on the fateful day.
Consequently, a case was registered against Ashish Mishra under the relevant sections. Ashish Mishra and his accomplices including Luvkush, Ashish Pandey, Ankit Das, Shekhar Bharti, Kale and Sumit Jaiswal, were taken into custody gradually after Ashish Mishra’s arrest on October 12. The SIT had sent all the accused to jail. Both the sessions and the Allahabad High Court have been denying bail to the accused since then.
The incident had raised nationwide outrage with political parties and the farmers demanding the resignation of MoS Ajay Mishra Teni. In the wake of the upcoming electoral battle of 2022, the probe report may add to Mishra’s woes as the opposition has vociferously renewed its demand to sack Mishra.
However, after the submission of SIT report, MoS Ajay Mishra met his son in jail on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the opposition leaders like Congress Waynad MP Rahul Gandhi, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav have demanded the government to make Mishra relinquish his post in the Union cabinet as his son’s complicity in the violence was proved.