Truth becomes a casualty when the media turn partisan. This has been happening in the case of Lakhimpur Kheri too. What happened on Sunday happened in broad daylight and in the presence of thousands of people. There were many amateur photographers and videographers to record the events and put them on social media. These unedited clips and photographs would have told the truth and nothing but the truth. Alas, in the hands of some media outlets, these very clips are used to project the incident in the manner they want to project it. Thus, for those who want to show the government or the ruling party in a good light, there are clips to show the farmers throwing stones or lynching a person. It is a different matter that the same clips are used to provide a counter-narrative to expose the government’s insensitivity to the farmers’ demands.
The main issue is what role the Union minister of state for home Ajay Mishra and his son Ashish Mishra played in the escalation of violence at Tikunia in which four farmers, three BJP supporters and an eighth person were killed. Also, how did the black SUV ram into the crowd and mow down four farmers and injure several others? While the minister was in the area, where was his son at that time? If, as the minister says, his son was elsewhere and he has evidence to prove the same, why is he not providing that crucial evidence?
It is difficult to believe that the chain of events that led to the killings was spontaneous and not pre-planned. On the contrary, one is tempted to believe that the violence was pre-planned and was aimed at discrediting the farmers’ agitation.
It is a different matter that the conspiracy has boomeranged, forcing the Yogi Adityanath government to announce a liberal compensation of Rs 45 lakh to the next of kin of the four farmers and a government job to one from each of the families concerned. Public confidence cannot be built by announcing monetary compensation alone. The government should have sprung into action, arrested all those allegedly involved in the incident. Instead, the attempt seems to have been to shield the guilty.
In a democracy, it is incumbent upon the government to let political leaders like Priyanka Gandhi visit the area and console the victims. Instead, Section 144 was imposed on the area to prevent political leaders and media persons from reporting the truth. This did not show the UP government in a good light. Media houses, instead of highlighting the truth, preferred to remain either an unabashed supporter or a staunch critic of the government.
It is a bit surprising that the Prime Minister did not think it necessary to ask the minister concerned to vacate his post till the inquiry ordered into the incident gives him a clean chit. Such a step would help in winning the confidence of the farmers. It is now more than a year since the farmers have been agitating for the repeal of the three farm laws enacted in 2020 without much discussion in Parliament. During this period, more than 600 farmers have died at the satyagraha venues at the borders of the capital.
Had the government been sensitive, it would surely have found a way in which the agitation could have been honourably called off. The heavens would not have fallen if the farmers were dealt with more humanely. Even now it is not too late to make such an attempt which will let the agitators return to their farms.
Whether the vehicle was deliberately rammed into the crowd or not, there is evidence that the minister concerned and other BJP leaders have been badmouthing the farmers. To call them ‘terrorists’ and ‘anti-nationals’ is to vitiate the atmosphere in which the hotheaded in the party consider it their duty to teach the farmers a lesson. And there is a chief minister who advised his party men to organise themselves into small groups, attack the farmers, get jailed and become heroes.
Alas, neither the Prime Minister nor the BJP chief thought it necessary to warn them of consequences if they indulged in such verbal attacks. Their silence was tantamount to supporting them. The incident is also a measure of the hatred built up over the months against the farmers and their cause. The leaders of the party and the government cannot, therefore, escape the responsibility for what happened at Lakhimpur Kheri.
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