Around 10am, the antim ardas or final rites for the four farmers — Lovepreet Singh, Gurwinder Singh, Nachattar Singh and Daljeet Singh — were held at the Kaudiyala Sahib gurdwara. After the ritual, the scene shifted to the protest gathering, where farmer leaders from Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh joined. Posters honouring the four farmers and the journalist, Raman Kashyap, as “martyrs” lined the massive tent under which the protesters gathered.
Many farmers, anticipating resistance, had arrived in Kheri late on Monday. Others, who started on Tuesday morning, were stopped at several places along the way, trickling in by afternoon. The district administration had reportedly sent lekhpals to the houses of local farmers to “advise” them to skip the meeting to avoid “law and order” problems, attending farmers said. ADG (Lucknow zone) SN Sabat told TOI that “required forces” had been deployed in the area for security.
Earlier in the day, police tried to stop RLD chief Jayant Chaudhary at the Bareilly airport but had to let him go after his supporters staged a blockade. Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi arrived at the protest around noon but was not allowed to speak on stage. “It’s a non-political programme,” a farmer leader said.
On the stage were families of those who died and farmer leaders. “We are not happy with the way the investigation is going on. Our protest will continue. The next mahapanchayat will be in Lucknow on October 26,” Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) spokesperson Rakesh Tikait told the gathering. “The minister and his son must be lodged in separate barracks in Agra, not in Lakhimpur jail, because they are guilty of murder. The minister must resign and be arrested.”
Prominent BKU leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni accused the government of pitting people from one community against another. “The government is trying to play the Hindu-Sikh card. But this is a fight for justice by people across faiths. We will all fight together,” he said.
A demand for the minister’s resignation was a recurring concern among all speakers. “The state government has met our demands — the FIR, arresting the minister’s son, handing out compensation and jobs. But there’s one that remains, that the minister be sacked. They said it’s in the hands of the Centre,” Bhartiya Sikh Sangathan president Jasbir Singh Virk said. “He has not even been summoned yet … We will intensify our movement until the minister is sacked.”
Farmer leaders also asked why the prime minister had not spoken about the violence. “PM (Narendra) Modi has not uttered a word about this incident. He has shown that not everyone is equal to him,” a farmer leader from Uttarakhand told the gathering. Another, from Punjab, added, “The government is speaking to people jailed in Kashmir, with the Taliban, but not to farmers.”
After the meeting, the ashes of the four farmers were handed over to farmer leaders from 75 districts of UP and from each state in India. “The ashes will be immersed in the holy rivers of each of these places,” Tikait said. “The glory of these farmers who attained martyrdom should be shared with people across the country.”
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