Navjot Sidhu ended his short-lived hunger strike Saturday morning, shortly after Ashish Mishra – Union Minister Ajay Mishra’s son – appeared for questioning at the Lakhimpur Kheri Crime Branch office in connection with the violence that killed eight people, including four farmers this week.
The Congress leader began his ‘indefinite fast’ Friday to demand the arrest of Ashish Mishra. Sources said Sidhu, who also met with the families of those killed, was observing a ‘maun vrat‘ (silent fast).
“What happened (was) a barbaric crime. India is asking for justice… There is evidence, video evidence… There is the name in the FIR… witness account is there. But the arrest is not being made because he (Ashish Mishra) is a union minister’s son,” Sidhu said yesterday.
Ashish Mishra is a murder accused in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence and deaths, and was named as such in a UP Police FIR. However, nearly a week after the incident, he remains a free man.
He was first called for questioning yesterday but skipped the summons; his father, the junior Union Home Minister Ajay Mishra, who oversees law and order issues for the country, later cited ill-health.
He finally arrived for questioning today surrounded by a police escort, after having been summoned under Section 160 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which is normally used for witnesses.
Legal experts have questioned why there was no summons under Section 41 (for those accused).
Police sources countered saying an arrest could still be made, even under Section 160.
The summons itself followed critical comments from the Supreme Court, which asked the police if they would treat Ashish Mishra any differently were he not a union minister’s son.
“What is the message you (the UP government) are sending. Even in normal circumstances will police not go immediately and apprehend the accused?” Chief Justice NV Ramana asked.
The court also ruled out a CBI probe at this stage (as demanded by a PIL it was hearing), noting “CBI is not a solution… because of the persons (involved)“.
On Tuesday a top police official told NDTV the delay in arresting, or even questioning, Ashish Mishra was because the force is “busy with negotiations… postmortems… cremations”.
Eight people, including four farmers, a journalist, and a BJP worker, died Sunday after a convoy of vehicles that included an SUV owned by Ajay Mishra rammed into a group of farmers.
The farmers have alleged Ashish Mishra was in one of the cars.
Both Ashish and his father have denied all charges. Mr Mishra admitted to NDTV that the car belonged to his family but said neither he nor his son were in it when the incident took place.