LUCKNOW: Union minister of state for home affairs Ajay Mishra ‘Teni’ on Friday insisted that his son, Ashish Mishra, who is an accused in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence that led to the death of eight people on October 3, was innocent and at home.
The Union minister also stressed that he didn’t appear before the police on Friday because he was unwell but will give his statement to the police on Saturday. The Lakhimpur Kheri police initially ordered Ashish Mishra to give his statement at the crime branch office on Friday at 10am. Mishra was a no show. Local police officers later issued a second notice – this one was also pasted at his Lakhimpur Kheri house – to summon him for questioning at 11am on Saturday.
Ashish’s father, Union minister of state for home affairs, said his son will be there.
“We have full faith in the law. My son is innocent. He got a notice on Thursday but he said he was not well. He will appear before the police tomorrow and give his statement and evidence as he is innocent.”
Ashish Mishra was among the six accused identified as accused by the police after the First Information Report (FIR) was filed by villagers. It is alleged that a vehicle belonging to the Union minister allegedly ploughed through farmers during a protest against the agricultural laws earlier this week. Four farmers died. Two BJP workers and a driver were beaten to death allegedly by angry protesters, while a local journalist was also killed in the violence that ensued.
Farmers maintain that Ashish was in the lead car that ran over people, a charge that the Union minister and his son have denied.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court asked the state police to report on the arrests in the case. Soon after, the police finally made their first arrests, Luvkush Rana and Ashish Pandey, both described by the police as associates of Ashish Mishra, were remanded in judicial custody by a local court on Friday. It is not clear whether the police sought their custodial interrogation.
At its hearing on Friday, the Supreme Court rebuked the police for its handling of the case and remarked that the state police do not appear to be “really serious”.
“What is the message you are sending? If a case is lodged under Section 302 (murder charge under the Indian Penal Code), the police will normally go and arrest the accused. After all, this is a case involving the brutal death of eight people. The law should have taken its course and all accused should have been arrested in a case like this,” the bench led by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana said.
The deaths have also touched off a political firestorm with opposition leaders demanding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi drop the Union minister from his team to ensure a fair probe.
Ajay Mishra ‘Teni’ brushed aside the demand.
“Vipaksh to kuch bhi mangta hai (Opposition can demand anything). This is a BJP government that works in an unbiased manner. Action will be taken against those found guilty.”
“The notice to Ashish was issued under Section 160 (police officer’s power to require the attendance of witnesses) of code of criminal procedure and he was asked to appear in person and present evidence that he is aware of about the incident. Ashish has failed to appear. We will now adopt other legal procedures,” Lakhimpur Kheri superintendent of police Vijay Dhull said.