Lucknow: The deaths in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri found no mention in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 35-minute speech Tuesday at an event in state capital Lucknow, 140 km away.
The absence of any reference to the violence, despite allegations that Union Minister of State Ajay Mishra’s son was part of a convoy of cars that ran over protesters, led the opposition to describe Modi as “anti-farmer”.
The PM was in Lucknow to inaugurate an ‘Azadi@75-New Urban India: Transforming Urban Landscape’ conference-cum-expo, to mark 75 years of India’s Independence next year. Through his address, Modi praised the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh for its “efforts and cooperation in several schemes of the central government”.
Chief Minister Adityanath, who addressed the event as well, didn’t mention the Lakhimpur-Kheri violence either.
Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel, who arrived in the state in the aftermath of the violence but was stopped from leaving the Lucknow airport, described “this BJP government as totally insensitive”. Samajwadi Party spokesperson Ashutosh Verma echoed the criticism.
Eight people — including a journalist — were killed in the clashes that took place during a farmers’ protest against Union minister Ajay Mishra ‘Teni’ Sunday. Both sides have accused each other of provoking the violence. Farmers claim a car owned by Ajay Mishra’s Ashish son ran over protesters, but the minister has denied it.
The UP government has launched a judicial inquiry into the incident.
Also Read: Drama after deaths in Lakhimpur Kheri — how UP cops stopped opposition from reaching spot
Modi’s praise for Yogi govt
At the event, Modi said urban planning used to be a victim of politics under previous regimes. “The earlier governments did not wish to get houses constructed for the poor. They were creating hurdles in getting houses constructed. The Yogi Adityanath government has given 9 lakh houses so far and another 14 lakh houses are in different stages of construction,” the PM said.
Modi also appealed to the beneficiaries of the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) to light two diyas on Diwali and break the record of 7.5 lakh diyas that Ayodhya is aiming for this year. “Since I have come to Uttar Pradesh, I want to give some homework. But you will have to do it. Will you?” he said.
Among other things, he digitally handed over the keys of houses built under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Urban (PMAY-U) to 75,000 beneficiaries. Modi inaugurated and laid the foundation stones for 75 urban development projects under the Smart Cities Mission & Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), and flagged off 75 buses for seven cities (Lucknow, Kanpur, Varanasi, Prayagraj, Gorakhpur, Jhansi and Ghaziabad).
Speaking to ThePrint about Modi’s speech, Chhattisgarh CM Baghel said this BJP government “has an anti-farmer approach”.
“The PM and CM did not say a single word on this incident (Lakhimpur Kheri) because they have a habit of ignoring the voice of farmers. They are anti-farmers. Their supporters call them (farmers protesting against farm laws) ‘Talibani’, ‘Khalistani’ etc,” he said.
Baghel alleged the PM and CM didn’t refer to the violence because a “Union minister’s son was involved”.
Meanwhile, Samajwadi Party’s Verma said, “Not mentioning anything about the Lakhimpur incident in his speech of over 35 minutes clearly shows the Prime Minister’s insensitivity… He has time to wish happy birthday to celebrities but he can’t offer condolence to farmers who died in the violence at Lakhimpur?”
It was due to the abuse of power, he alleged, that the Union minister’s son had not been arrested despite having been booked for murder.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)
This is an updated version of the report
Also Read: Pain, anger in Lakhimpur Kheri as dead farmers’ kin cry ‘cold-blooded murder, Yogi’s gunda raj’