If demands are not met, ‘rail roko’ on Oct. 18, Lucknow rally on Oct. 24, say farmers’ protest leaders
Protesting farm unions have issued a call for farmers to again gather in strength in Tikunia in Uttar Pradesh on October 12, the “antim ardaas” day when last rites will be conducted for the farmers who died at Lakhimpur Kheri last Sunday. From there, the ashes of the victims will be taken to all districts of U.P., to the gurudwaras of Punjab, and to all States of the country, to spread the message that “the BJP government is terrorising farmers”, according to leaders of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), which held its general body meeting at the Singhu border on Friday.
“There was immense anger not just that such an incident has happened, but that the government is protecting the accused for so long,” said Jagmohan Singh, general secretary of the Dakaunda faction of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, assessing the mood of those who attended the meeting.
If prime accused Ashish Mishra is not arrested and his father Ajay Mishra is not removed from the Union Council of Ministers by October 11, the SKM vowed to intensify its protest with a nationwide “rail roko” between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on October 18, followed by a mahapanchayat in Lucknow on October 24 along the lines of the mass gathering of lakhs of people in Muzaffarnagar last month. On Dasara, farm unions plan to burn effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.P. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
In a statement, the SKM rejected the Special Investigation Team (SIT) and judicial inquiry set up by the U.P. Government, noting that the Supreme Court had also said it was not satisfied. It also agreed with the apex court that an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation investigation would not be a solution either, and “demanded an impartial investigation that will report directly to the Supreme Court”, welcoming the court’s order asking the U.P. police to keep all evidence intact.
Declaring October 12 as the Shaheed Kisan Diwas, the platform of unions protesting the three farm reform laws appealed to farmers across U.P. and the country to make their way to Tikonia on that day, rebuilding the crowd which had gathered immediately after the incident in the area.
“There would have been at least 20,000 people gathered in Tikonia last Sunday. At that time, the anger could have sparked off a riot between Hindus and Punjabi Sikhs, who [the latter] are major landowners in the area, so [BKU leader] Rakesh Tikait played a key role in preventing that and dispersing the crowd,” claimed All India Kisan Sabha general secretary Hannan Mollah, who is part of the SKM’s core committee, alleging a conspiracy to provoke communal violence by Mr. Mishra and other Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders. “Now, a big crowd will build up again, but the leaders will ensure that the anger is channelled into peaceful protest,” he added, estimating that 15,000-20,000 people would gather. Senior Punjab farm leader Balbir Singh Rajewal said he was on his way to Lakhimpur Kheri on Friday night, and other leaders planned to arrive over the weekend.
Mr. Mollah and other leaders confirmed the plans for a “kalash yatra” to disperse the ashes of the victims across the country over a ten-day period. “We want the message to go out as far as possible that the BJP is now actively killing farmers. Earlier, they took many steps to oppress us, and to discredit us, but since they have failed to break the unity of the movement against the farm laws, the BJP is now moving to put fear in farmers’ hearts by terrorising us,” he added.
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