“My son is innocent and he will appear before the Uttar Pradesh police on Saturday to record his statement,” said Union Minister Ajay Mishra, whose son, Ashish Mishra, faces a murder case in connection with the violence in Lakhimpur Kheri on October 3. This comes after Ashish skipped the summons issued by the Uttar Pradesh police for Friday, October 8, 10 am, stating he was "not well."
Speaking to reporters at the Chaudhary Charan Singh airport in Lucknow on Friday, October 8, Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra said, "We have full faith in the law. My son is innocent. He got a notice on Thursday but he said he was not well. He will appear before the police tomorrow (Saturday, October 9) and give his statement and evidence as he is innocent."
On Friday, the Supreme Court pulled up the Uttar Pradesh government over its steps taken in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence case so far. The apex court also questioned the state government over its failure to arrest Ashish Mishra. The minister's son is named in the FIR in the Lakhimpur violence that took place on October 3, in which eight persons including four farmers and a journalist were killed.
Ashish was asked by the police to appear before it at 10 am Friday, but he skipped the summons. The Uttar Pradesh Police then issued a fresh notice to Ashish Mishra, asking him to appear before it by 11 am on Saturday. The latest notice, pasted outside Ajay Mishra's house Friday afternoon, warned that legal action will be initiated against Ashish Mishra if he fails to appear before the investigators on Saturday.
Hours later, the minister told reporters his son was not well and that "he will appear before the police tomorrow and give his statement and evidence as he is innocent." On Opposition’s relentless attack on him and demanding for his resignation, the minister said, "Vipaksh to kuch bhi mangta hai (Opposition can demand anything). This is a BJP government that works in an unbiased manner. Action will be taken against those found guilty," he said.
Deputy Inspector General (Headquarters) Upendra Agarwal, who is heading the team probing Sunday's incident, waited for him at the police lines but he didn't show up, after which the fresh notice was issued.
After two men were arrested on Thursday, the police pasted a notice outside Ajay Mishra's house asking him to appear before it at 10 am on Friday. The arrested men were identified as Luvkush of Banbirpur village and Ashish Pandey of Nighasan tehsil, two of the seven people mentioned in an FIR lodged by the police in connection with the violence.
A nine-member team headed by DIG Upendra Agarwal has been formed to investigate the FIR lodged against the minister's son and others.
Four of the eight people who died on Sunday were farmers, allegedly knocked down by vehicles carrying BJP workers. Angry farmers then allegedly lynched some people in the vehicles. The other dead included two BJP workers and their driver.
Farmers claimed that Ashish Mishra was in one of the vehicles, an allegation denied by him and his father who say they can produce evidence to prove he was at an event at that time.
On allegations that attempts are being made to save Ashish Mishra, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said, "There is no such video. We have issued numbers, and if anyone has evidence, they can upload it. All will be crystal clear. There will be no injustice with anyone. No one will be allowed to take the law in his hand but no action will be taken under any pressure. We will not arrest anyone on allegations. But yes, if someone is guilty, he will also not be spared irrespective of who he is," he said.
As Ashish Mishra did not show up, reports emerged that he may have fled to Nepal.
Following this, Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav on Friday said, "If this is true, the Centre should intervene and get the accused arrested from Nepal." In a statement, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha expressed its "serious concern and shock" at Mishra not being arrested yet. "There is no trace of him (Ashish Mishra). News reports indicate that he is changing locations and is absconding, with several Uttar Pradesh Police teams searching for him."
The morcha alleged that two other men — Sumit Jaiswal and Ankit Das — were also involved in the violence, but they are not being arrested by the police. "There is only information on a notice issued to Ashish Mishra summoning him for questioning. The Uttar Pradesh government and Minister Ajay Kumar Mishra are adopting protective tactics to ensure that Ashish Mishra roams free," it said.
It alleged that Sumit Jaiswal was in the Thar vehicle that mowed down the farmers and was clearly seen escaping from the vehicle.