INDIA: Lakhimpur Kheri violence: Ashish Misra arrested after 12-hour grilling (UPDATED)

Lucknow, U.P. (IANS): Ashish Misra, son of Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Misra, has been arrested by the Uttar Pradesh Police after 12 hours of interrogation on Saturday for his alleged role in the October 3 violence in Lakhimpur Kheri that left nine persons dead, confirmed Upendra Agrawal, Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police, Saharanpur (Range).

According to sources, Misra has been arrested for not cooperating with the ongoing investigation by the police.

After being served a second notice, Ashish Misra, who has been accused of running over farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri, appeared before the police on Saturday to record his statement.

Ashish Mishra.

Four of the eight people who died in the violence were farmers. Angry farmers then allegedly lynched some people in the vehicles. The other dead included two BJP workers and their driver.

Many of his supporters also reached the Crime Branch office in Lakhimpur Kheri where the interrogation took place. His lawyer Awadhesh Singh was also present along with Sadar MLA Yogesh Verma.

The second notice sent by the police had asked Ashish Misra to appear before it on Saturday after he failed to do so on Friday.

The notice had also warned Ashish Misra that if he failed to appear, necessary legal action would be initiated against him.


Minister’s son ‘evaded’ crucial questions

His inability to respond to pointed questions about the sequence of events on October 3, when a group of farmers were trampled over by a SUV belonging to him, finally led Ashish Mishra, son of Union Minister Ajay Mishra Teni, to jail.

Mishra was arrested at on Saturday and sent to the Lakhimpur jail around 1.a.m on Sunday after 12 hours of questioning.

According to a senior official in the investigation team, Ashish Mishra was not able to explain his location between 2.30 p.m and 3.30 p.m. on October 3 when the incident took place.

Witnesses have said he was missing from the event between 2 and 4 pm, his phone location showed him closer to the crime scene.

Though the minister’s son admitted the SUV that ran over farmers belongs to him, he maintained that he was not in it. His team said he had produced around 150 images of the wrestling match where he was present on the day of the incident.

“To every question, he had one answer – I was not present at the spot where the incident took place. We asked him who drove his SUV, how many people were sitting in it, how many cars were there in the convoy and for every question he said he was not present,” said the police officer.

When asked why the vehicle did not stop after hitting the people and why was there a crowd on the road, Ashish Mishra had one reply -I was not there.

At times, he even lost his cool and said, “Even if you ask me one lakh [100,000] times, my answer will be the same.”

He even feigned complete ignorance about the fact that his men carried arms with them.

The families of at least two deceased have claimed that there were gunshot wounds on the bodies – a fact denied in the post mortem report.

However, two empty cartridges of 315. bore rifle have been found at the site of the incident, proving that someone opened fire.

When the police team asked him the veracity of video footage he had produced to substantiate his presence at the wrestling match earlier in the district, Ashish said, “You can get it tested from forensic experts.”

He still had no explanation for his whereabouts at the time when the incident took place because the wrestling match had ended by then.

When asked why he was not cooperating with the investigations, Ashish said, “Whenever I am needed, I will come. I am not a criminal– I am the son of a politician and a businessman in my own right.”

Mishra was arrested a day after the Supreme Court reminded the Uttar Pradesh government that the law must take its course against ‘whoever is involved’ amid nationwide outrage over the incident and mounting pressure from farmer groups.

Two persons, Luv Kush and Ashish Pandey, were arrested on Thursday as the case reached the Supreme Court. They were reportedly in the same vehicle that ran over a journalist and farmers, the police said.

Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had earlier stated that his government will ‘not arrest anyone on the basis of allegations’.


Two more detained

The Lakhimpur Kheri police has detained the driver of Ankit Das, the nephew of former Congress MP late Akhilesh Das, in connection with the death of four farmers who were mowed down by a vehicle belonging to Ashish Mishra, son of Union Minister Ajay Mishra Teni.

He was reportedly driving the vehicle in the convoy, which was just behind Mishra’s SUV. The driver is also accused of helping Ankit Das escape from the spot.

Meanwhile, another aide of Mishra, said to be present at the scene of crime, was also detained.

Senior police officers did not disclose the names of the accused saying they had not been arrested and are being questioned.

Ankit’s uncle Akhilesh Das was a Congress MP and the national general secretary of BSP. He passed away in 2017.

Ankit is said to be a close associate of Ashish Mishra and his father.

An official said the name of Ankit Das surfaced after a video went viral a day after the violence in Lakhimpur Kheri.

In the video, a man, having injuries on his head, is seen claiming that he was in the second SUV with Das.

A policeman is also spotted in the video holding a microphone and asking the injured man about the incident. The man tells the cops that the vehicle belonged to Ankit Das.

The injured man is heard telling cops that he lives in Charbagh area in Lucknow and had accompanied Ankit Das to Kheri for work.