2021-10-04 07:52:23 India Farm Protests Threaten to Worsen After 8 Killed
India Farm Protests Threaten to Worsen After 8 Killed
NEW DELHI (AP) — Eight people were killed on Sunday in an incident that protesting farmers blamed on a prominent Indian leader, as nearly a year-long protests against a government overhaul of the country’s agriculture laws threatened to escalate.
The police in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh have said they are investigating the deaths of four farmers and four others. According to protest leaders, a vehicle plowed into demonstrators while passing by the site as part of a convoy.
The police said they were looking into whether Ashish Mishra was in the car that hit the protesters, as the protest leaders claimed. He is the son of India’s minister of state for home affairs, Ajay Mishra.
On Monday, Ashish Mishra told Indian television news channels that the allegations against him were “baseless.”
The incident gained prominence after Uttar Pradesh police arrested Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the leader of India’s main opposition Congress party. She was detained early Monday after her convoy, which was transporting her to the families of the farmers killed, was stopped by Uttar Pradesh police.
In an apparent attempt to defuse tensions, state police temporarily shut down internet service in the area.
The incidents have injected new political venom into the protests that have raged in New Delhi, India’s capital, and surrounding areas since late November. Thousands of north Indian farmers have occupied protest camps on the outskirts of the capital in protest of a trio of market-friendly farm laws that they claim will put many of them out of business.
Farmers maintained sit-ins and gatherings despite deadly Covid-19 outbreaks and torrential monsoon rains.
Tensions have frequently erupted into violence. The worst incident occurred in January, when tens of thousands of farmers stormed New Delhi, smashing through police barricades. In response, the government dispatched troops to apprehend farm leaders and clear the tent cities where they had been camped for months.
Protests erupted last month in Haryana, a neighboring state to Uttar Pradesh, after a local official was caught on video ordering police to use violence to disperse one gathering. The state authorities responded by deploying additional troops and shutting down the internet, but tensions were only relieved after the government agreed to investigate the official’s actions.
The incident occurred on Sunday in the Uttar Pradesh district of Lakhimpur. Protesters were attempting to prevent the elder Mr. Mishra and a state minister from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party from visiting.
According to farmers’ union leaders, as Mr. Mishra’s convoy passed by the site, a vehicle occupied by his son and others deliberately plowed into the farmers.
Mujib Mashal contributed to this report.