Video Producer: Shohini Bose
Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam
Following a rap by the Supreme Court, Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Misra's son Ashish Misra, alias Monu Bhaiya, the main accused in the Lakhimpur Kheri case, has been arrested by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the UP Police. He has been accused of mowing down protesting farmers with his car in the district, killing four of them.
The arrest took place after 12 hours of questioning at the Crime Branch office in Lakhimpur Kheri on Saturday, 9 October. He has been sent to 14-day judicial custody, while the police custody remand petition will be heard on Monday, 11 October.
After skipping the first summons issued to him, Ashish, along with his lawyer, appeared at the Crime Branch office almost 22 minutes ahead of the deadline set for his appearance (11 am), in the second summons issued to him on Friday.
Following the interrogation, Misra was formally arrested. He will be taken to the district hospital where his medical examination will be conducted and he will then be produced in court.
What the Police Said
Talking about the arrest, DIG in-charge of the probe Upendra Agrawal said Misra did not cooperate during interrogation.
“For non-cooperation and evasive reply, on these grounds we are taking him into custody and arresting him,” Agrawal said.
Misra was served a notice under Section 160 of the CRPC on Thursday, ordering him to appear before the SIT at the Crime Branch office on Friday at 10 in the morning.
Ashish, however, did not turn up to record his statement, raising speculations that he is on the run and not willing to cooperate with the investigation.
However, later in the evening, his father arrived in Lucknow and while speaking to the media clarified that his son is very much at their residence in Lakhimpur Kheri and would join the investigation on Saturday.
The Opposition, in its sustained attack at the government, has been demanding resignation of MoS Misra, claiming that the latter being in power will not allow for a fair probe in the case involving his son as the main accused.
Replying to the allegations, MoS Misra said:
"There is a BJP government in the state and a fair probe will be conducted. I hold such a high office... had there been some other government, even an FIR would not have been registered."MoS (Home) Ajay Misra Teni
What Ashish's Lawyer Says
Sources told The Quint that Ashish's lawyer, Awadhesh Kumar Singh, produced video evidence and an affidavit from witnesses, who place him at a wrestling event when the fleet of three cars went on a rampage and mowed down farmers in Tikunia on 3 October.
Singh said they will move the court against the police custody on Monday.
"They have just said one line that he (Ashish Mishra) is not cooperating. This cannot be ground for seeking police custody. We will look for what else they come up with. From 11 am to 12 am, they (SIT) did not complain that my client is not cooperating. Eight people questioned him for straight 12 hours but nobody complained during that time. Not sure how did this "non-cooperation" come up later."Awadhesh Kumar Singh, Ashish Misra's Lawyer
"Going by the interrogation of the SIT, there is no evidence against Ashish Mishra. When they (SIT) could not find any evidence they came up with this story that he is not cooperating and are now seeking police custody. Had SIT been in possession of any evidence, they would not have asked for custody. There is no video from the opposing side which places Ashish Mishra at the spot during the incident," he added.
Allegations of a Shoddy Probe
Uttar Pradesh Police slipped into action and the investigation in the case took off only after the matter reached the Supreme Court, two days ago.
This was when the first summons was issued to the murder accused – who, under normal circumstances, are arrested. The preferential treatment given to the minister's son in the murder case didn't go unnoticed by the apex court as well.
"Is it the way you treat the accused in other cases as well? Sending notice?"NV Ramana, Chief Justice of India had said on Friday
When quizzed on why the main accused of the incident has not been arrested yet, Lakshmi Singh, inspector general (Lucknow range) told the media that there was no bullet injury on the body of any of the victims and now, they are looking for fresh evidence in the case.
In one of the first developments in the investigation in the violence case, police had arrested suspects Ashish Pandey and Luvkush after they were detained and interrogated. Police said the duo, during the investigation, had divulged three names who are now all dead.
Later, a press release from the office of Prashant Kumar, additional director general (law and order), claimed, that apart from the main accused, Ashish Misra, six more names have surfaced during the interrogation. Among the seven suspects, two have been arrested while three are dead.
Earlier, postmortem reports of the eight victims of the violence had ruled out any bullet wound despite allegations of gunshot injury made by families of several victims.
Eyewitness accounts of the incident mention to have heard gunshots during the incident and the same was corroborated by recovery of two missed .315 bore cartridges from the spot.
A political slugfest has already begun over the violence over the incident. Senior Opposition leaders from Congress including Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and Punjab CM Charanjit Singh Channi were the first ones to visit Lakhimpur to express solidarity with the family of the victims.
Samajwadi party chief Akhilesh Yadav and senior Bahujan Samaj party leader Satish Chandra Mishra also followed soon after.
On Saturday, Punjab Congress committee chief Navjot Singh Sidhu also met with families of the victims in Lakhimpur Kheri. Demanding justice, he sat on hunger strike at the residence of Raman Kashyap, a journalist who was killed in the violence on 3 October. He also took a scathing dig over the alleged shoddy investigation in the case.
"His name is there in the FIR. There are eye witnesses, proof and evidence. Minister's son should join the investigation or he should be arrested. Police can conduct a fair probe but I don't know why it is being overlooked"Punjab PCC chief Navjot Singh Sidhu
Earlier, citing prohibitory orders imposed under section 144 of the CrPC, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi was detained inside the campus of 2nd battalion of PAC in Sitapur for two days before she was finally allowed, amid protests by Congress workers outside the main gate of PAC, to visit the families of victims in Lakhimpur Kheri.
(With inputs from Dharmendra Rajpoot in Lakhimpur Kheri.)