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Lucknow: A farmers’ agitation in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri district, seeking the removal of Union minister Ajay Kumar Mishra and a law guaranteeing minimum support price (MSP) among other demands, was called off Saturday, August 20. The agitation was called off after top district officials met the protesters.
During the 75-hour agitation, which started on August 18, the leaders also met the four jailed farmers who were incarcerated in connection with the Lakhimpur Kheri incident, All India Kisan Sabha secretary Mukut Singh told The Wire.
This was the first time the local administration allowed the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) leaders to meet them in jail.
While addressing a gathering of farmer leaders on August 18, Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait said: “The country is ready to fight a long battle.”
The agitation was being held at Mandi ground, Lakhimpur, under the aegis of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM).
The Wire spoke to farmer leaders about their 75-hour-long protest. They believe that the Union as well as the state government has betrayed them.
The farmer leaders blamed the Uttar Pradesh government for not paying any ex-gratia to the injured farmers so far. They also expressed concerns over the Bharatiya Janata Party government’s policies which are making farming difficult in the country. Apart from that, they demanded Union minister Ajay Mishra’s resignation from his post.
Political analyst Yogendra Yadav also demanded Mishra’s resignation and expressed his apprehension that Ajay Mishra could use his political clout to influence the investigation and protect his jailed son, Ashish.
Tejinder Singh Verk, a farmer leader, also asked, “Why has Prime Minister Modi not sacked his minister until now?” He added that in the government’s constituted panel on MSP, the majority of the members are from the BJP-affiliated groups.
He added that the UP government vowed to pay compensation to the injured farmers, however, so far not even a single penny has been given to them.
Gurmeet Singh, a farmer, also said that Ajay Mishra’s position as the Union minister could influence the investigation in this case.
Eight persons, including four farmers and a journalist, were killed on October 3 last year after they were run over by a car that was allegedly part of a convoy of vehicles in which the Ajay Mishra’s son was travelling. At least twelve people were severely injured in the incident.
The Union minister’s son, Ashish, was arrested for his alleged role in the Lakhimpur violence. He was released on bail in February this year, and was in April brought back to jail after he surrendered.
Talking about the Electricity Amendment Bill 2022, Singh claimed that the government wants to hand over the power sector to private firms to end the subsidies to farmers. He said that farmers are opposing this Bill as the government did not consult them. They believe the Bill would lead to a hike in power tariff.
Another farmer, Baljinder Singh, expressed disappointment over the arrest of farmers in connection with the Lakhimpur incident. He claimed that the farmers had not hit anyone, and added that they were defending themselves from Ashish Mishra and his aides.
“We demand that the Yogi Adityanath government release the farmers who are in jail allegedly for killing BJP members and a driver,” he said.
Dilbagh Singh, who is a farmer from Lakhimpur, said that besides national issues, the protest is also about the local agrarian crisis. He said that several sugarcane farmers are yet to be paid their dues. Even in Lakhimpur, many big mill owners have not paid the farmers, which has caused financial troubles for them, he added.