Since the Lakhimpur Kheri episode in the poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, many politically significant things have taken place-an intensification of the farmers’ protests, the detention of opposition leaders, a seeming rise of Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi etc.
The car that killed the four farmers was allegedly being driven by Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra’s son. The main plot here appears to be an attempt to harm and violently dominate the farmers, but the arc of things that have followed may reveal otherwise.
First, there have been many videos floating on social media depicting in hd the hate speech given by various BJP ministers. Be it Ajay Mishra’s warning to the farmers to ‘behave’ or Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar’s remark to pick up sticks against the protestors, the ruling party’s members found no hesitation in making these remarks, that too openly.
Second, the boundary created at the site did not allow the top opposition leaders to enter the area. Aam Aadmi Party’s Raghav Chadha was not allowed to go inside, as was the case with Samajwadi Party’s President Akhilesh Yadav, who is one of the top contenders for UP CM seat.. Priyanka Gandhi was detained, perhaps illegally. This is not unlike the script we’ve seen in the Hathras incident last year.
Third, the sweet life of Ajay Mishra and son. The UP police had put the people who were trying to protest against the injustice in detention but the person alleged to have committed the crime, even after this much hue and cry, is yet to be found and investigated. Also, it looks like the MoS has not faced much trouble for his seat. For the current BJP leadership it is not an issue to remove and replace ministers. It has happened recently in 4 states but when it comes to the current MoS, against whom massive public outcry has taken place, they have given no indications of removal.
Fourth, the Prime Minister’s speech in Lucknow. On Tuesday, barely 150 Km away from Lakhimpur Kheri, campaigning for the UP elections next year, PM Modi did an event. There he spoke about the achievements made by their party in the state, without even acknowledging the Lakhimpur incident, forget about assuring that justice would be provided to the people killed, including the ones killed by farmers.
The way that BJP has handled this incident demonstrates that while at the foreground the Lakhimpur incident is about the tragedy of farmers being killed and perhaps about invoking public sentiments against the movement citing the retaliation from farmers that followed, at the background this incident is about showing how much blatantly brutal they can be but still get away with it. The publicly made hate speeches by top ministers, the crystal-clear signal to opposition leaders that you protest at the site of injustice only with our permission, the free pass given to the minister and his son and not just the ignoring of the incident but the chest thumping of success in UP by the Prime Minister sends a clear message- we have stretched the boundaries of what’s acceptable. In all likelihood, they will stretch it further.
Vibhu Jaggi is a student of Ashoka University, Sonipat