The murder of four farmers at Uttar Pradesh's Lakhimpur Kheri after allegedly being run over by a BJP minister's son on Sunday, 3 October, has outraged the nation. The incident occurred at a venue where the farmers were protesting against the three new agricultural laws - a protest that has been held country-wide since the three laws were introduced in 2020.
While many in the legacy media have termed these deaths as a results of "clashes", "conflicts", and "protests turned violent", others have asked that these deaths be called by no other name than "murder".
Why, you may ask? Well, many believe that the act of violence against the farmers was a culmination of repeated statements made by several legislators to dehumanise and defame the protests, the protestors and their cause. Statements of these nature, made several times since the protests began, have more often than not, also gone unchecked and unpunished.
Many say that this normalisation of calls for violence against farmers and labelling them as "dangerous" has led to the horror that is the Lakhimpur Kheri incident. In that sense, the violence is a culmination of the demonisation of the farmers' protests since it began.
So, while many acclaimed journalists have gained access to the "sequence of events" that led to the incident from "top sources in the BJP", we thought that we'd put out a sequence of our own. And, well, no top sources needed to be consulted for this one.
"Entire Incident a Conspiracy": Minister Whose Son Has Been Accused Of Murder
First, let's look at the comment made by BJP Union Minister Ajay Misra Teni, whose son has been accused of being behind the wheel of the car that mowed down the 4 farmers. According to the Lakhimpur Kheri administration, at least eight people lost their lives in the incident. However, reports of more casualties are still surfacing.
Reports from the ground suggest that apart from the four farmers, three BJP workers who were a part of the Union Minister's convoy; the driver of his car, also lost their lives. The latter four were allegedly "lynched" at the protest venue.
In his first statement to media after the incident, therefore, Teni said that the incident was a "conspiracy".
“My son was not even present at the spot… the allegations against him are false…there is video evidence proving this," said Teni. “He was there since 11am. He didn’t even go home. There were at least 2,000 people present at the venue, including district administration officials. He, too, would have been lynched had he been in the car," he added.
“The vehicle was pelted with stones by miscreants who hid amid the protesting farmers. The car overturned because of that and two farmers came underneath it. The driver and the karyakartas were then pulled out and beaten to death. The car was set on fire. The entire incident is a conspiracy," he explained.
He further insinuated that the protestors were "not farmers but outsiders", as the farmers who died were identified as residents of "Nanpara area of Bahraich and not from Lakhimpur".
Teni is a Member of Parliament (MP) from the Kheri Lok Sabha constituency.
However, since the incident, a video of Teni's, allegedly shot a week prior, has surfaced.
In the video, he is seen talking about the farmers' protests and asking those involved to "mend their ways".
"I want to tell such people (the farmers) that they should mend their ways. If not, then we will mend them and it will take us all of 2 minutes," says Teni in the clip.
"I don't run away from challenges. The day I take this (farmers' protest) up as a challenge, then not just Ballia (a district in UP), you will have to run away from Lakhimpur also," he further adds.
While the video is now being extensively shared on social media, The Quint has been unable to verify the veracity of the video, or determine the location and the time it was shot.
"Pick Up Sticks & Fight Farmers": Haryana Chief Minister
In a meeting of the BJP's Kisan Morcha in Chandigarh on Sunday, 3 October, the day of the incident, Haryana Chief Minister, Manohar Lal Khattar, urged the volunteers present at the venue to "pick up sticks" against farmers.
"Form groups of 500, 700, 1000 people and make them volunteers. And then at every place, 'sathe sathyam samacharet'. What does it mean - it means tit for tat", Khattar can be heard saying in a video clip, which has since gone viral.
Khattar further says that the "volunteers" must not be scared of going to jail.
"Do not worry...when you remain there (in jail) for a month, three months or six months, you will become big leaders. Your names will be etched in history," Khattar added.
Khattar's comments have thereafter received massive criticism with many calling him out for openly calling for violence against farmers, and branding protestors as anti-social elements.
However, when legally or by his party, Khattar is yet to be pulled up for his comments.
"Would've Beaten Farmers On Their Legs, Put Them In Jail": BJP Spokesperson
Earlier in September, a video of BJP spokesperson Harinder Singh Kahlon went viral wherein he can be seen saying that he would have "beaten" farmers who are protesting against the three farm laws, had he been the Prime Minister.
“PM Modi is sitting there (in government) who loves them (farmers). If unfortunately, a person like me was sitting there, he would have beaten them on their legs and put them in jail," Harinder Singh Kahlon said.
"Somebody threatened me that he would throw a trolley of cow dung outside my house. I told him to bring a cot and a white sheet along, because he would go back in that," Kahlon added.
Later, after farmers' organisations protested at Kahlon's residence, he said that his statements had been "twisted" and thereafter apologised if he "had hurt anyone's feelings".
"Terrorists Sitting At Farmers' Protests": BJP MP From Rajasthan
In January 2021, another viral clip, this time of BJP MP from Rajasthan's Dausa, Jaskaur Meena, had gone viral.
In the clip, Meena could be heard calling protesting farmers "terrorists".
"Terrorists are sitting there and the terrorists have AK-47s with them. They have pitched the Khalistan flag," said the BJP MP in the video.
Thereafter, while Meena is yet to publicly apologise for branding an entire movement as that run by "terrorists", her comments were also justified by the BJP leadership in Rajasthan.
"MP Meena's feelings were not wrong. She wanted to say that the kind of flags and slogans being raised at the farmers' protest is wrong. Some people have entered the protest in the name of farmers," said BJP spokesperson, Ramlal Sharma, to The New Indian Express.
"Maoists Have Entered Farmers' Protests"
Derogatory comments against the farmers' protests were also made by BJP leaders who were apparently "mediating" between the farmers and the Union government in January, when the protests peaked across India.
“Maoists have entered the (farmers’) movement and are not letting this issue (on farm laws) get resolved," BJP leader Surjit Kumar Jyani was quoted as saying after a meeting with Prime Minister Modi.
"Prime Minister Modi is a visionary and is concerned about farmers…Maoist elements have entered the farmers' movement and are not letting the issue get resolved," Jyani said.
Again, while farmers reacted vehemently against Jyani's comments, no action was taken against him, either legally or by his party.
The Uttar Pradesh Police has said that a FIR has been registered against Teni's son, Ashish Misra, and several other persons in connection with the Lakhimpur Kheri case. However, the police administration is yet to disclose what sections the FIR has been registered under.