New Delhi: The Supreme Court's intervention in the investigation of the Lakhimpur Kheri incident in which four farmers and a journalist were killed has started bearing fruits. It was only after the court raised some pertinent questions that the UP police swung into action. It was after much dilly-dallying that they arrested Ashish Mishra, son of union minister of state for home Ajay Mishra, who ran a convoy of SUVs into the protesting farmers, killing some and injuring many. Even when the police were forced to arrest him, they tried to protect the minister's son by invoking minor charges against him and others involved in the crime.
It was as a last resort that the Supreme Court appointed a retired High Court judge to monitor the investigation by three IPS officers belonging to cadres other than UP. Investigations have revealed that Ashish Mishra's gun was used and he was present in his car. His claim that he was elsewhere was found to be a blatant lie. The police have found that the vehicles were deliberately driven into the agitating farmers with a view to teaching them a lesson. It was not a case of accidental or negligent driving.
The new findings by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) expose the 13 persons in custody, including the minister's son, as “murderers” who acted in concert to frighten the farmers. They do not deserve any mercy as their intention was to kill. The investigation disproves the version of the union minister who has all along been claiming that his son was not at Lakhimpur Kheri that day. It is a different matter that he could not say where exactly he was when the farmers died under the wheels of the SUVs, one of which was owned by the minister himself.
This casts a suspicion on the minister. As a father, he has a right to defend his son. The question is whether he holds the right to remain a union minister, and that too, holding the portfolio of home while he defends his son. There is certainly an incongruity in what he does while holding the post. Mishra had briefed Home Minister Amit Shah soon after the incident. Now that his version has been found to be untrue by the SIT, the best course of action for him is to quit the post of minister. Of course, he should be able to return to the ministry if his son is able to prove that he is indeed innocent.
The responsibility for this rests with the prime minister and the home minister to whom the minister reports. This is also in accordance with the dictum that Caesar's wife should be above suspicion.
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