Lakhimpur Kheri attack was pre-planned, made with cooperation of police and led by Ajay Mishra’s son: Report

An independent 11-member all India fact finding team comprising of members from several civil society organizations released a report on Tuesday on their detailed investigation into the massacre

Visuals from Lakhimpur Kheri incident
Visuals from Lakhimpur Kheri incident

Sanjukta Basu

An independent fact finding report on the Oct 3, 2021 Lakhimpur Kheri incident was released today by a group of civil society members with fresh demands for the sacking of Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra Teni, broadening of the scope of the SIT investigation to include the September 2021 hate speeches made by the Minister, and the role of the police in the conspiracy among other things.

Four farmers, a journalist and three men associated with the Bhartiya Janata Party were killed in the October 3, 2021 incident allegedly as part of a murder conspiracy in which Ajay Mishra Teni’s son Ashish Mishra is the prime accused and is presently in judicial custody.

An independent 11-member all India fact finding team comprising of members from organizations such as Association For Democratic Rights (AFDR) Punjab, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPRD) Tamil Nadu, Krantikari Lok Adhikar Sangathan (Uttar Pradesh) among others visited the site of the massacre from October 27 to 29, 2021 and held meetings with local people, the families of the farmers who died in the incident, lawyers, eyewitnesses including those who had recorded their statements under 164 of the CrPC and accessed the reports and videos available in the public domain.

One of the key findings of the team is that the killings were not a result of spur-of-the moment violence or negligent driving as claimed by certain sections of the media but a purposive, pre-planned attack made with the cooperation of the police and led by Ajay Mishra’s son.

“Our findings have been concurred by the SIT chargesheet which is a welcome sign, but just because the chargesheet incriminates the Mishra son, that does not mean Ajay Mishra is not able to manipulate the case anymore. As Minister of State for Home he continues to have over riding control over police and in a position to subvert justice. We must keep demanding for his resignation,” said Seema Azad from PUCL at an event at which the report was released.

The team demanded that there should be thorough investigation into the death of three BJP workers who were handed over to the police in injured condition and were later killed, effectively in police custody, according to the fact finding report. “One Mr Shyam Sunder was not grievously injured and was in fact seen walking with the police to the ambulance but went missing later. It needs to be seriously investigated how did he die?” said Prof Jagmohan Singh of AFDR.

“Similarly, the death of driver Om Parkash also needs thorough investigation because his death goes to benefit Ashish Mishra,” he added.

The fact finding report specifically finds that the timeline of the events begins long before the Oct 3 incident and as such the scope of the investigation should be broadened. “The incident of October 3 can be understood and investigated comprehensively only if the timeline of the incident is constructed from September 2021 and the context of land relations and the concerted attempts to communally divide the citizens are foregrounded in the investigation,” the report states.

“As soon as the incident happened, administration sprung into action and turned the district into a fortress by shutting down internet and imposing Section 144 arbitrarily. Members of independent and local media, national media teams or ordinary villagers–nobody were allowed to provide authentic first hand information while the father-son duo (Ajay and Ashish Mishra) used this crucial period to sway public opinion in their favour by telling utter lies on TV news channels putting the blame on farmers, making false claims about alibi etc.” said team member and Activist Navsharan Singh.

“It is shocking how the pliant media channels gave the Mishra duo a platform while real victims could not speak. We were also appalled to see how the Mishra duo was confident of their impunity which further warrants his removal from the position of power,” she added.

The report also highlights the alleged criminal background of Ajay Mishra and the enormous power he enjoys in Nighasan, the constituency from where he won as MLA and where he goes by the label ‘maharaja’ owing to the extremely poor and backward conditions of the villagers.

“The villagers were scared to speak up because they are still so afraid of Ajay Mishra. It is ironic that in a representative democracy people are afraid of their own representative,” said Md Faisal from Krantikari Lok Adhikar Sangathan.

The report also states that the role of police regarding the entry and escape of the criminals from the scene of crime, allowing possession of both licensed as well as un-licensed weapons by those who have a criminal history, and other procedural lapses must also be thoroughly investigated.

“The Deputy CM’s programme to land at Tikunia for the Banvirpur event, for which the farmers had gathered, was cancelled one day prior to the incident. Why did the police and local administration keep this information away from the farmers? Why were they lying to farmers and allowing tensions to brew?” asked Navsharan Singh.

Meanwhile, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the Lakhimpur Kheri incident has submitted its chargesheet charging Ashish Mishra and twelve others with attempt to murder, participating in criminal conspiracy, murder, among other charges, thus marking the end of the police investigation into the case.

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