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'Slap on Our Faces': Why Lakhimpur Kheri Victims' Families Are Angry With BJP

"Did they not think even once how we would feel if Ajay Mishra Teni contests the elections again?" the families ask.

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Elections
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Video Editor :Mohd. Irshad Alam
Video Editor :Kriti Saxena

Ever since 3 October 2021, Paramjeet Kaur (35) has not lived a day when she doesn't shed a tear for her late husband. Every time she speaks of him, she chokes up. "Daljeet had told me he would come back by the evening," Paramjeet, crying, told The Quint.

Daljeet Singh was one of the eight people killed in the Lakhimpur Kheri incident and even as headlines have moved on, time has stood still for the families of the victims in this case.

The video of cars crushing the farmers on Tikunia road in Lakhimpur Kheri went viral back then, the farmers were wrapping up their protest against deputy chief minister's Keshav Prasad Maurya's visit amid the now-repealed farm laws, but for some, it was a fatal death.

This included four farmers, one journalist, two BJP workers and the driver.

The vehicle which mauled the farmers allegedly belonged to Ashish Mishra, son of BJP MP and Union Minister Ajay Mishra Teni.

Adding insult the injury of the victims' families, almost two and half years later, the main accused Ashish Mishra is out on bail and-Ajay Mishra Teni, has been renominated by the BJP from the Lakhimpur Kheri Lok Sabha constituency. It votes on 13 May in the fourth phase of polling.

The Quint travelled to Lakhimpur Kheri, Bahraich and Dhaurehra to meet the families.

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"Did they not think even once how we would feel if Ajay Mishra Teni contests the elections again?" the families ask.

Daljeet's wife, Paramjeet Kaur and his brother, Jagjit Singh.

(Photo: Mohd Shahzeb)

'Shame For All The Families'

Daljeet Singh's brother Jagjit Singh (45) said that by giving Ajay Mishra Teni the ticket to contest the polls again, they've brought "shame" to the families and shown how little they care.

"The BJP government is shooting the gun from over Teni's shoulders. We saw what he did when he was in the government before, who knows what he will do next time if he's elected," Jagjit told The Quint.

He added that if the situation was vice-versa and the farmers had run over the minister, "then bulldozers would have razed their houses to the ground till now."

The fact that Ashish is out on bail today, has deeply worried the families. Not only regarding their safety, but also the slow pace at which the case has progressed legally and how Ajay Mishra has never been cross-questioned as yet.

Jagjit said, "We have been told by the locals that Ashish has been seen on the ground, the locals are scared to shoot or submit photos or videos though. However, this is against his bail terms and that is why we have informed the Supreme Court."

The Supreme Court too, took notice of this and stated that if Ashish is attending functions then it violates his bail terms — he is to be nowhere near UP unless it's for the purpose of the trial.

Daljeet's son, Ramandeep (18), was a minor when he witnessed his father being killed at the protest site. For over 1.5 years, he did not speak or open up, noted Jagjit.

Fondly remembering his father, he said, "I miss him a lot, I remember him every day, before we could even demand, he used to get us whatever we wanted within two minutes."
"Did they not think even once how we would feel if Ajay Mishra Teni contests the elections again?" the families ask.

The day of the protest on 3 October 2021. This photo features Daljeet and Gurwinder Singh, both were killed.

(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

'It Was My Father's First Protest'

On the other hand, life took a 360 degree turn for Dr Jagdeep Singh (32) of Dhaurara in Lakhimpur Kheri when his father, Nachhatar Singh (58) was killed during the protest.

"It was the first time he decided to partake in the protest. When I gave him the black flags and small stick for his safety, he said, 'I don't need this, we're not going there to fight, only to stand with my farmer brothers.' He took a good look of the house before leaving and then never came back."
Dr Jadeep Singh to The Quint

Jagdeep said their family only found out about his body many hours later, the viral video incidentally shows Nachhatar being run over by the car.

"Did they not think even once how we would feel if Ajay Mishra Teni contests the elections again?" the families ask.

Nachhatar Singh, during the protest on 3 October 2021, before he was killed.

(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

"There's a formula in BJP," he observed. "The bigger the crime you commit, the more seats you will get, in my opinion. By giving him the ticket, they've given a slap on our faces and conveyed that they don't care about us, but are only concerned with their Brahmin vote bank."

Ajay Mishra Teni is an important Brahmin leader for the BJP in that region.

"Did they not think even once how we would feel if Ajay Mishra Teni contests the elections again?" the families ask.

Dr Jagdeep Singh with his father's photograph.

(Photo: Mohd Shahzeb)

In this regard, farm leader Guramneet Singh Mangat of Progressive Farmers' Front also told The Quint, "There is a divide among the farmers also. Those who consider themselves Hindu above being farmers want Hindu Rashtra and would vote for them. The government is relying upon the divide between Sikhs and non-Sikhs to show that they would take the landholdings from the Sikhs and give it to them."

As their lives upended, the responsibility to take care of the farming left behind by Nachhatar fell on Jagdeep's shoulders. Jagdeep left his medical practice in Kanpur and shifted to Lakhimpur Kheri.

"He was a very direct man, if anything, he would say it to your face. Now, my brother's wedding, sister's wedding happened and I gave her away. Had father been here, things would have been different and joyous," he stated, remembering him.

Moreover, he added that Sikh and Muslim families and even some Hindus in his village, Namdar Purva, do not allow BJP rallies to enter.

"Did they not think even once how we would feel if Ajay Mishra Teni contests the elections again?" the families ask.

Jagdeep showing his father's old photo albums.

(Photo: Mohd Shahzeb)

"There are very good Muslim and Sikh families here and even some Hindus who have seen BJP's politics and what they did to my father, hence, a BJP rally cannot take place in this village," he added.

'Rubbing Salt Into Our Wounds'

There were two 18-year-olds who were also killed in the violence, one of them was Gurwinder Singh of Bahraich and the other was Lovepreet Singh of Palia.

Gurwinder's father, a livid Sukhvinder Singh (50) questioned, "Could they not find any single candidate instead of him? Does he have unparalleled dominance?"

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"How could they not see how the families would feel about this? Ye toh jale pe namak chidhakne wala kaam kiya hain (they have rubbed salt into our wounds) and have revived our wounds."
"Did they not think even once how we would feel if Ajay Mishra Teni contests the elections again?" the families ask.

Sukhvinder Singh and his wife, Daljeet Kaur, 44, hold their son's photo.

(Photo: Mohd Shahzeb)

Talking about his son, he stated that there were only two things Gurwinder loved: Pooja paath (praying) and farming. To an extent, that he had made his space near their house where he used to pray daily. Today, the family observes prayers in the same spot every day for him.

Gurwinder was shot in his head, the family believes as they saw the bullet wounds, however, the first post-mortem report they received stated "an accident." They got a second post-mortem report done but never received its copy.

Upset with the "BJP's politics of 'Ram Mandir," Sukhvinder said the BJP's influence in the district, the slow progress in the case has left them in a lurch.

Therefore, they had applied for arms license for their own safety and defense, however, apart from one or two families in the case, none of them have gotten it yet.

"Ajay Mishra Teni, Ashish Mishra are dabang aadmi. (fearless men). What if he comes here tomorrow? How will I protect myself and my family," he asked.
"Did they not think even once how we would feel if Ajay Mishra Teni contests the elections again?" the families ask.

Gurwinder's spot that he had made for himself.

(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

The SIT Report, An Affidavit & Anomalies

Talking about the BJP MP, Pawan Kashyap (37), brother of Raman Kashyap (34) has brought forth several revelations regarding his candidature.

Raman, was a journalist who had gone to cover the protest at Tikunia road but was killed, leaving behind a daughter, a son and his wife.

His brother recalled the anger and resentment among most locals with the BJP MP, stating that "their campaign cars are traveling empty because people don't want to sit in them."

Pawan also pulled up Teni's affidavit filed during nominations this time.

"First, he filed an affidavit stating that he owns no car and has no cases against him. This was leaked and then he had to change it and file another affidavit wherein he accepts he owns a Thar. There are six cases against him contrary to what he claims.
  • The column where Ajay Mishra Teni later admitted to owning a Thar.

    (Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

Apart from this, he also pointed out the SIT report which had stated the violence not born out of “negligence or callousness” but was instead a “planned conspiracy."

The team had demanded charges of committing murder, rioting, causing hurt, and others to be levied against the accused.

Shortly after submitting their report, SIT team was reportedly disbanded.

"Did they not think even once how we would feel if Ajay Mishra Teni contests the elections again?" the families ask.

The SIT report, as shown by Pawan Kashyap.

(Photo: Mohd Shahzeb)

Raman said, "if elections take place fairly, then it's difficult for Ajay Mishra Teni to win."

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Remembering his brother, he said that Pawan had wanted to cover the protest to show the reality of farmers protest on the ground which he felt that mainstream media was failing to do.

"Did they not think even once how we would feel if Ajay Mishra Teni contests the elections again?" the families ask.

Pawan Kashyap, holding his brother, Raman's photograph in their home.

(Photo: Mohd Shahzeb)

"He was an idol for us," said Raman, who said that ever since he was killed, his mother and sister-in-law have completely broken down and are not able to talk openly about him.

"You know what's ironical? His 4-year-old son says he wants to buy a Thar when he grows up because he knows his father was killed by it, that's how he looks at it," noted Raman.

  • The Quint also visited Ajay Mishra Teni's office in the district.

    (Photo: Aliza Noor/The Quint)

Meanwhile, reminiscing about his brother and the memories, Jagjit said, "all the time he used to laugh and never took anything seriously."

"Did they not think even once how we would feel if Ajay Mishra Teni contests the elections again?" the families ask.

Old photograph of Jagjit Singh with his younger brother Daljeet Singh.

(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

"It's like he's still here, sitting with us. We can't see them or speak to them, but they're here. A void that can never be filled, but we shall always miss them."

(The Quint reached out to Ajay Mishra Teni at his campaign office but he was away. We also tried to reach him on mobile. The Quint also reached out to Lovepreet's family but they were unavailable at the moment. We will update the story as and when they respond)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Video Editor :Mohd. Irshad Alam
Video Editor :Kriti Saxena
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