Responding to a question raised on the Lakhimpur Kheri violence at Harvard Kennedy School in the United States, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday, 12 October said that the incident which led to the death of as many as four farmers was "absolutely condemnable," news agency PTI reported.
However, the FM asserted that similar incidents occurring in other parts of the nation should be amplified "when they happen and not when it suits others because it's a state where BJP is in power."
The finance minister was reportedly asked about the Prime Minister's silence on the issue, and questioned why the administration had been reacting defensively when confronted with the situation.
"Absolutely not... It's nice of you to have picked up that one incident which is absolutely condemnable, every one of us says that. Equally, there are instances happening elsewhere, is my concern," the minster iterated.
Sitharaman embarked on a 7-day official visit to the US on Tuesday.
'Not Defensive About BJP, Defensive About India'
Sitharaman emphasised that she was 'not being defensive about her party or her Prime Minister' but was 'being defensive about India.'
It's being defensive about India. I will talk for India, I will talk for justice for the poor. I will not be mocked at. And if it is mocking, I will be defensive to stand up..Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, as per Press Trust of India
On 3 October, eight people, including four farmers, were killed at Uttar Pradesh (UP)'s Lakhimpur Kheri after being allegedly run over by a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) minister's son. The protesters even accused the BJP leader's convoy of crushing protesters with their vehicles, which allegedly left several others injured.
A video, purportedly of the incident also surfaced, showing a speeding SUV ramming into protesting farmers, confirming statements of the farmers, who claimed that it had caught them without warning.
Consequently, the Uttar Pradesh police on Monday, filed a First Information Report (FIR) under sections of murder and rioting against Ashish Misra, son of Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay Misra.
Addressing the incident, Sitharaman said, "One of my cabinet colleague's son is probably in trouble, and also assume that it's actually them who did it and not anybody else. Due course of justice will also have a complete inquiry process to establish it," PTI quoted.
'In Making for a Decade': Sitharaman on Farm Laws
The Finance Minister also responded to a question on the ongoing farmers' protests, saying that the three contentious ordinances were deliberated in several parliamentary committees for over a decade.
"When the farm laws were brought in the Lok Sabha, there was an elaborate discussion and the agriculture minister gave his reply as well. It was only when it came to the Rajya Sabha, there was a lot of noise and disturbance," the minster said, dispelling the validity of the prolonged protests.
She elaborated that the government is willing to engage with the protestors, and claimed that the nearly year-long unrest is only concentrated one stated and certain parts of the country.
"We are willing to talk about it, tell us that one particular aspect in any one of the three laws. Till date, we have not had even one particular aspect which is being questioned," she added, PTI reported.
Thousands of farmers hailing from Punjab, Haryana and several other states have been protesting Delhi borders since November last year, seeking a complete revocation of BJP government's three farm laws.
The farmers, who believe those laws to be 'anti-farmer', believe that the scrapping of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) will render them at the mercy of big corporations
Reacting to a question on the farmer unrest, the minister said, "The number of farmers, the total quantum of money, total quantum of grain procured in each one of them - the highest as has happened season after season in the last seven years," PTI reported.
(With inputs from PTI)