SITAPUR: Senior Congress leader Deepinder Singh Hooda on Monday said the farmers’ agitation at Lakhimpur Kheri will usher in a change of government in Uttar Pradesh, similar to the change of guards following the Bhatta Parsaul episode a decade ago.
“I was a part of the Bhatta Parsaul movement and had taken part in the foot-march. The then BSP government had targeted farmers, totally disregarding their self-respect. Today, the same situation is prevailing.
“After Bhatta Parsaul, there was a change of government in Uttar Pradesh and there will be a change of government in the state now,” Hooda, who was detained in Sitapur while he was on his way to Lakhimpur Kheri, told PTI over the phone.
In 2011, two policemen and two farmers were killed in clashes following protests over acquisition of land in Greater Noida’s Bhatta Parsaul, a Jat-dominated village that had become the epicentre of agitation against land acquisition in the country.
Back then, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had visited Bhatta Parsaul disguising his identity and riding pillion on a two-wheeler being driven by his senior party colleague Digvijay Singh as a mark of solidarity with the farmers protesting against the land acquisition taking place under the then Mayawati government in Uttar Pradesh.
Hooda, one of the four Congress leaders including party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra who were detained in Sitapur while they were on their way to Lakhimpur to meet the family members of the deceased farmers on Sunday night, rejected the ruling BJP’s claims that it has done a lot of work for the welfare of farmers.
“Had it done good work for the farmers, the farmers would not have to stage protests on the roads,” he said.
Regarding the allegations levelled by the BJP that non-farmers, especially political activists, penetrated into the farmers’ protest in Lakhimpur Kheri on Sunday, leading to the incident, Hooda said, “The protest is led by farmers and they are the heroes of the movement. Every farmer is emotionally associated with this agitation. As a responsible opposition, we are extending full support to it and we have the right to do so.”
With the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) attacking the Opposition for raising the farmers’ issue in view of next year’s Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls, he stressed that the issue of farmers is much bigger than elections.
Asked if his party will give poll tickets to the family members of the farmers who lost their lives in Sunday’s violence, the Congress leader said, “This is an issue of the farmers, which is bigger than the elections.”
Sharpening his attack on the BJP, he accused it of being arrogant and showing scant regard to the farmers’ demands.
“The BJP has ignored the demands of the farmers and has occupied the throne of arrogance from where the ‘pagdhi’ of the farmers is not visible,” Hooda said.
Recalling the moments of late Sunday night, when the Congress delegation was leaving for Lakhimpur, he said only four party leaders decided to go as section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) was imposed in the area.
“At every crossing, we were stopped. If security forces in this strength were deployed in Lakhimpur Kheri, the violence could have been prevented,” Hooda said.
“The incident has embarrassed humanity. The minister has not resigned yet nor has he been removed. He must resign on moral grounds,” he said, referring to Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay Kumar Misra, whose son has been named in an FIR filed at the Tikonia police station in connection with Sunday’s incident.
Hooda also claimed that the Congress leaders, including Priyanka Gandhi, were manhandled by the policemen, adding, “That is not an issue. The real issue is that of the farmers.”
Eight people were killed as violence erupted during a farmers’ protest in Lakhimpur Kheri on Sunday, claiming the lives of both farmers and BJP workers ahead of a visit by Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya.
Of the eight dead, four were travelling in cars, apparently a part of a convoy of BJP workers who had come to welcome the minister.
They were allegedly thrashed to death.
The four others were farmers, officials said.