The violence in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri, that left eight people including four farmers dead – triggering a major political row over the alleged involvement of a union minister’s son, will be taken up by a Supreme Court bench led by the Chief Justice on Thursday.
The court has decided to take up the case on its own amid a growing outcry over the Uttar Pradesh police’s handling of the investigation.
Farmers have vowed to intensify their months-long movement against laws aimed at liberalising agriculture as tension flared after eight people were killed in clashes between protesters and ruling party supporters on Sunday.
Four of the eight were killed when a car belonging to the son of Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra’s son Ashish crashed into protesters in Uttar Pradesh state, protest leaders said. And yet four days later, despite being named in a police complaint, he was yet to be arrested.
The police have said they were investigating the crash and had registered a case against 13 people.
Mr Mishra said his son was not present at the incident but a car driven by “our driver” lost control and hit the farmers after they threw stones at the car and attacked it with sticks and sword.
The son, Ashish Mishra, also denied being present. Police in Uttar Pradesh, which is ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party, said that the son was one of the 13 people against whom a case had been registered.
An alliance of protest groups called in a petition to President Ram Nath Kovind on Monday for a court-supervised investigation of the violence.
The legislation the farmers object to, introduced in September last year, deregulates the sector, allowing farmers to sell produce to buyers beyond government-regulated wholesale markets, where growers are assured of a minimum price.
Small farmers say the changes make them vulnerable to competition from big business, and that they could eventually lose price supports for staples such as wheat and rice.
The government says reform of the sector, which accounts for about 15 per cent of the $2.7 trillion economy, mean new opportunities and better prices for farmers.
India’s longest-running farm protests pose a risk for the re-election prospects of the BJP when Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, goes to the polls early next year.