Lakhimpur Kheri: 13 in jail for farmer deaths; minister son’s bail plea to be heard Nov 15

The bail application of Ashish Mishra, son of Union Minister of State Ajay Mishra, will be heard by a court in Lakhimpur Kheri on November 15.

Ashish alias Monu is among the 13 accused arrested by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) investigating the incidents of October 3 in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri district, in which four farmers and a local journalist were run over and killed by a convoy of SUVs including one that is owned by Union minister Mishra.

Three occupants of the vehicles were subsequently beaten to death by the mob at the site. The SIT headed by Upendra Agarwal, an Uttar Pradesh Police officer of DIG rank, has arrested four people for their alleged involvement in these murders.

Ashish Mishra was arrested on October 10. He has said he was not present at the scene of the crime. All 13 accused are lodged in the district jail in Lakhimpur Kheri.

Union MoS Ajay Mishra Teni’s son Ashish Mishra after arrest in Lakhimpur Kheri violence case. (Express photo by Vishal Srivastav)

On October 3, three vehicles including a Mahindra Thar belonging to the minister, ploughed into a group of farmers returning from the venue of a protest, at the Tikonia crossing, killing the four farmers and the journalist.

The enraged mob lynched two BJP leaders and the driver of the Thar, and set ablaze the Thar and and a second vehicle, a Toyota Fortuner owned by one Ankit Das, a nephew of the former Union minister Akhilesh Das. The driver of the third SUV, a Mahindra Scorpio, escaped with his vehicle.

Ashish has claimed that at the time of the incident, he was at a wrestling event in his ancestral village Banveerpur, around 2 km away. The farmers have, however, alleged that he was present in one of the vehicles.

Ashish was questioned for 12 hours before he was arrested, during which he allegedly replied to only 40 questions that were put to him, sources said.

“We have found the involvement of 16 persons in the killing of the four farmers and the journalist. Three of these people, including the driver of the Thar, were killed in the violence that followed. The SIT has arrested the remaining 13 persons, including Ashish Mishra and the drivers of the other two vehicles,” a officer involved in the investigation said.

The driver of the Thar has been identified as Hari Om Mishra. The Fortuner and the Scorpio were being driven by one Shekhar Bharti and one Shishu Pal respectively. The 13 arrested include Sumit Jaiswal, who is the complainant in the second case.

The SIT obtained police custody remand (PCR) of all the accused from the local Lakhimpur Kheri court in order to interrogate them. Ashish was interrogated twice, and he and the other accused were taken to the scene where the crime was recreated. Ashish was also taken to his village, where he has claimed to have been at the time of the incident.

“The SIT is collecting evidence to prepare a watertight case against the accused,” the officer quoted above said.

In the second case, relating to the lynching of Thar driver Hari Om Mishra and BJP leaders Shubham Mishra and Shyam Sunder, the SIT made four arrests last month after releasing pictures of the incident and asking people to help identify the individuals in them.

The four arrested have been identified as Gurvinder Singh, Vichitra Singh, Ranjeet Singh, and Avtar Singh, all residents of Lakhimpur Kheri. Based on information provided by Gurvinder, the SIT has claimed to have recovered a stick that was allegedly used to attack the two BJP leaders and the driver.

The SIT went through videos and pictures of the violence and zeroed in on 11 suspects. Some of the videos and pictures were collected from social media; others were sent to police by residents of the area.

In a few videos, some people can be allegedly heard instigating the public after the SUVs ran over the protesters. The SIT is learnt to have sent around 165 videos for forensic analysis, including one to match Vichitra Singh’s voice with one that is heard in a video.

“We have received reports of the analysis of a few videos from the Forensic Science Laboratory. We are studying them,” an officer said.

The SIT has also recorded the statements of over 100 witnesses in the two cases, including 70 who have given their statements before a magistrate.

“Most of the witnesses in the cases are common,” an officer said.

According to police, security has been provided to the families of the eight deceased persons. Security has also been provided to over a dozen people who are crucial witnesses, sources said.

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