Lakhimpur Kheri, UP:
Uttar Pradesh Police are attempting to “recreate” the horrific events that took place at Lakhimpur Kheri earlier this month, when four peacefully protesting farmers and a journalist were mowed down by a convoy of three vehicles, one of which belongs to Union Minister Ajay Mishra.
The police brought Mr Mishra’s son, Ashish, who is accused of the farmers’ murder to the scene, along with his friend and co-accused Ankit Das, and are using cop cars to recreate the events of that day.
Ashish Mishra has denied he was at the crime scene when the murders took place; he has claimed he was in his paternal village (around two km away) and stayed there all day.
Visuals filmed by journalists at the scene showed a police jeep driving at high speed and crushing dummies (meant to represent the farmers who were run over) placed on the road.
Another clip showed the crime scene secured with police tape; this, though, has raised questions about why the police did not secure the scene immediately after the incident and allowed everyone, including and the media, unfiltered access for at least 48 hours.
Other visuals – a decidedly surreal one – showed Ashish waving to crowds from inside the police jeep.
Ashish Mishra was arrested last week – after spending nearly seven days as a free man despite being named in the FIR (first information report). Yesterday he was denied bail by a local court.
Police remand ends today but they are likely to seek further custody so they can interrogate him.
Ashish’s arrest followed 12 hours of questioning by members of the police team formed to investigate the Lakhimpur incident, and that questioning came after an intervention by the Supreme Court, which asked UP Police if it was treating Ashish Mishra differently because of his high-profile father.
The police had earlier denied that Ashish Mishra’s obvious family connections had influenced them.
Yesterday a delegation of Congress leaders, led by Rahul Gandhi, met President Ram Nath Kovind, and urged him to speak to the government on this issue.
The Congress and other opposition parties have demanded that Ajay Mishra – who, as the junior Home Minister, oversees national policing issues – step down in order to ensure a fair probe.
“The families believe that till his minister father is in the post there can be no justice. This is also the demand of the people of the UP and all-right thinking people of the country… The president said he will consult the government,” Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who was part of the delegation, said.
Rahul Gandhi demanded that two sitting Supreme Court judges should probe the Lakhimpur incident – currently being investigated by a SIT from UP Police. The Supreme Court, meanwhile, earlier ruled out a CBI investigation of the deaths, citing “people involved” – seen as a reference to Ajay Mishra.
Both Ashish Mishra and his father have denied all charges.
Mr Mishra told NDTV the car belonged to his family but neither he nor his son were in it at the time. He has resisted all calls to resign; he met his boss, Amit Shah, this month, after which government sources ruled out any possibility of his stepping down.