Lakhimpur Kheri, UP:
Uttar Pradesh police are trying to “replay” the horrific events that occurred in Lakhimpur Khiri earlier this month, when four peaceful protesting farmers and a journalist were cut down by a convoy of three cars, one of which belonged to union minister Ajay Mishra.
The police brought Mr. Mishra’s son, Ashish, who is accused of killing the farmers to the scene, along with his accused friend and partner Ankit Das, and they are using the policeman’s cars to replay the events of that day.
Ashish Mishra denied that he was at the crime scene when the murders took place; He claimed that he was in his father’s village (about two kilometers away) and stayed there all day.
Visual images filmed by journalists at the scene showed a police jeep driving at high speed and crashing dolls (intended to represent run-down farmers) on the road.
Another clip showed the crime scene secured with police tape. However, this raised questions as to why the police did not secure the scene of the accident immediately after the accident and allow everyone, including the media, to have unfiltered access for at least 48 hours.
Other photos – decidedly surreal – showed Ashish waving to the crowd from inside a police jeep.
Ashish Mishra was arrested last week – after spending nearly seven days as a free man despite being named to the FIR (First Media Report). Yesterday, a local court refused to release him on bail.
Police custody ends today, but they will likely seek further detention until they can question him.
Ashish’s arrest came after 12 hours of questioning by members of the police team set up to investigate the Lakhimpur incident, and this questioning came after the intervention of the High Court, which asked the UP police if they treated Ashish Mishra differently because of his prominent father. .
The police had earlier denied that Ashish Mishra’s apparent family ties had affected them.
Yesterday a delegation of Congress leaders led by Rahul Gandhi met President Ram Nath Kovind, urging him to speak to the government on the issue.
Congress and other opposition parties demanded that Ajay Mishra – who, as the Home Minister oversees national police cases – step down in order to ensure a fair investigation.
“Families believe that until his father takes over as Minister there can be no justice. This is also the demand of the people of the African Union and the right-minded people of the country… The President said he will consult the government,” said Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who was part of the delegation.
Rahul Gandhi demanded that two High Court judges investigate the Lakhimpur incident – which is currently being investigated by the SIT of the UP Police. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court earlier ruled out the CBI’s investigation into the deaths, citing “people involved” – seen as a reference to Ajay Mishra.
Both Ashish Mishra and his father denied all the charges.
Mr Mishra told NDTV that the car was owned by his family but neither he nor his son was in it at the time. He has resisted all calls to resign. He met his boss, Amit Shah, this month, after which government sources have ruled out any possibility of him being removed.