At the place designated for the protests in Lakhimpur Kheri that locals call “Bilobhi Gate”, three young people wait for their order of noodles. While bank clerk Rahul Singh (28) says it’s time for change because “this government only knows how to invoke emotions in the name of religion and caste”, friends Vaibhav Gupta (27 ) and Pushpendra Verma (28) are not. sure who to vote for.
One thing they agree on: that the murder of farmers in Tikunia in Lakhimpur Kheri, in which the son of Union MoS son Ajay Mishra is accused, has ‘never been our problem’. Verma says, “Most of those killed were foreigners. It was a big event for the media, but it didn’t affect us, and it won’t affect the voting pattern here either.
“Bilobhi” is a distortion of the name of the British officer and deputy commissioner of Kheri Robert William Douglas Willoughby, who was killed by freedom fighters. If the event of the 1920s is now a forgotten memory, it is not only the three friends who believe that the death of the farmers is also a thing of the past.
Last week, the main defendant, Ashish Mishra, out on bail.
Vaibhav Verma (28), a farmer who visits the city from his village about 20 km away to buy materials, says he is voting for the BJP despite the problems. “They are building a nation. Can’t we make some sacrifices for them? said Verma, a Kurmi.
The deaths in Tikunia involved “Sikhs and those who protested against agricultural laws“, he adds. “While farmers in this area did not take part in the unrest, why should we be bothered by what happened at the protest in Tikunia? It looked like a conspiracy anyway.
However, even though father and son Mishra remain popular in the region despite the incident, the Samajwadi party is gaining ground. BJP leaders are also quietly admitting that the party will not repeat its 2017 success in winning all eight seats in the district.
In the village of Jagsar, with mostly Kurmis and Dalits, an argument erupted in a Kurmi house on top of which are SP and BJP flags. Finally, an elder, Deshbandu Gautam, who is a Dalit, intervenes to have the SP flag removed. Everyone is fighting over the two parties and seems to have forgotten the “experienced” leader of the BSP Mayawati, he laments. “My vote is for Behenji no matter how many times I hear it’s a two-sided fight.”
Gautam is one of the few to recall the Tikunia incident with a shudder – “It was brutal, I’m a farmer too, and it could have been me” – but that won’t be a factor in how which he will vote on February 23. “I would have voted for BSP anyway like I did every time. My vote doesn’t count for any other party, so what’s the point?”
For those like Sirajuddin (28), who works in a motorcycle repair shop at the market, the choice is simple. Complaining about not having worked for days, the new father says his only choice is the cycle (the SP symbol). “Why should I vote for the BJP when I know how they govern?”
The killing of the farmers is a dim memory even at the site of the incident, Tikunia, about 100 km from Jagsar. In nearby Banveerpur, Mishra’s home village, there is vocal support for “Monu bhaiyya (Ashish)” and that same hint of a conspiracy. Minister of State Ajay Mishra insists his son was framed.
One fallout is that Ashish, once the favorite for a ticket from the Nighasan Assembly seat, had to sit this one. The BJP has fielded incumbent MP Shashank Verma, whose father, the late Patel Ramkumar Verma, previously represented the seat.
Both the SP and BSP candidates are leaders who were once in the other party — RS Kushwaha, the former BSP head of state, is now in the SP; while RA Usmani was a minister in the SP government and is now in the BSP.
Even the Sikhs of Banveerpur are silent about Mishra. Settled here after partition, Sikhs constitute a substantial number in Lakhimpur Kheri. Their number varies from 20,000 to 40,000 seats.
Driving a tractor on his farm, Upkar Singh (40) says: “My children go to a school belonging to Teni ji (Mishra) and we have no problem with him. Tikunia’s problem has never been our problem. Our issues are floods, pending payments for sugarcane and diesel, gasoline prices. The biggest problem is stray cattle. Upkar has a daughter (12 years old) and a son (8 years old).
However, Pradeep Mishra (42) thinks Sikhs may not speak out because they are “afraid of Teni Maharaj”. “Every Sikh house in the village sent at least one person for the farmers’ agitation. Now they speak well of Teniji. You have to understand that they have to live here,” says Mishra, who runs an electronics store in the village.
Harjeet Singh (40), a Sikh lawyer who grew up in Banveerpur and is associated with the SP, says Sikhs in the village will “definitely” vote against the BJP. “They haven’t forgotten the incident that happened in their backyard (village). They are also angry that Ashish was released on bail so soon.
He adds: “Also, Sikhs may not be a deciding factor in any siege, but remember that we employ hundreds of people on our farm who are like our family. Their voting pattern is influenced by us.
In the Sikh “jhaalas” or more remote neighborhoods, such as Nighasan and Palia, the anger is more palpable.
Outside the Nanak Shahi Gurdwara in Palia, well-to-do farmers Satnam Singh (43) and his nephew Rajvir Singh (27) say they will never forget the incident. “When we heard that a minister’s son had knocked down our brothers, we couldn’t believe it…Besides the four dead, at least 30 were seriously injured and never even went to hospital by scared (of police intervention),” said Satnam, who owns 10 acres of land.
Rajveer says he tells everyone he knows “that the BJP is not good for this country”. “Farmers had to protest for months…700 had to die…for the BJP to withdraw the Farm Bills. And they did it right before the elections… In 2017 we voted for the BJP, but we won’t repeat the mistake.
In Pilibhit district next to Lakhimpur Kheri, where Sikhs are in greatest numbers, all four seats were won by the BJP in 2017. Here, the dissatisfaction with the BJP goes beyond the incident from Tikunia to unemployment, inflation, agricultural distress, wandering cattle and loss. work.
At Station Road market, Ajit Singh Bindra (47), sitting in the Punjab Gunhouse Shop, which his grandfather opened in 1964, says: “I have been here since morning. It’s 2 p.m. and I haven’t had any customers.
In Puranpur, a predominantly Sikh region, Ayurvedic doctor Harpreet Singh (48) says the BJP has failed “on all fronts”. “My son wanted to enlist in the army. For four years there have been no new recruits and now he is over the age. Previously, new recruitments into the army took place every year.
On Ashish’s bail, Harpeet says, “He walked out the same day the polls closed in western UP, where anger over the farm bills was highest.” They made a joke out of farmers’ lives.