In Teni’s Kheri, farmers’ killings a closed chapter for many | India News

LAKHIMPUR KHERI: The blood that was spilled in Tikunia village on Oct 3 three years ago is like the spot on Lady Macbeth’s hand. Some swear they see it even today, others don’t.
It was here, a little distance away from the Kaudiyala Sahib gurdwara, on the T-point just in front of a power sub-station’s billing counter, that four protesting farmers and a local journalist were felled when a vehicle owned by junior home minister Ajay Mishra ‘Teni’ — and allegedly driven by his son Ashish — ploughed through them.In quick retaliation, three members of the convoy – two BJP workers and a driver – were killed by the villagers.
Echoes of that violent afternoon are still heard in Lakhimpur Kheri as Mishra seeks re-election for the third time, having won convincingly from the seat twice – in 2014 and 2019. As one travels onward from Shahjahanpur, passing by a belt in the Terai considered so fertile that old timers say you can water a stone and it will sprout leaves, talk about the polls is invariably punctuated by references to the tragedy in Tikunia. It’s al ways “that incident” addressed variously by locals as “woh hadsa…kand…durghatna”.
Sitting by a field in Palia where stubble is being burnt for a quick “satha dhaan” — literally a paddy crop grown in 60 days after farmers sandwich it between harvests of sugarcane and wheat, a practice banned in some states because of the enormous quantities of water that must be used — Prabhjot Singh says he won’t vote this time. “It’s pointless,” he said. “Teni is likely to win again.”
Almost 40km beyond Palia, there is a line of fragile, tottery shacks on the mouth of the Sharda Barrage in Dhaurahara that sell aloo tikki and chai and cold drinks in luminescent yellow and orange bottles. Jayprakash Sahu owns one of the shops. He is busy as a group of people returning from Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav’s rally have stopped for nashtapani (refreshments). “There will be floods soon. Sharda will drive us away,” he said. “Life is tough. But benefits have reached us. We won’t lie. I think Teni is ahead again though the ballot is mostly for the BJP, not the candidate.”
In Lakhimpur Kheri Lok Sabha constituency, SCs and STs make up the biggest chunk, with about 25%, followed by Kurmis and Brahmins. Muslims, at roughly 14%, and Sikhs, together with Thakurs, Yadavs, Vaishyas and Kayashthas complete the other half. Up against Teni, a Brahmin, are the SP’s Utkarsh Verma and the BSP’s Anshay Kalra, a Punja bi. At a recent meeting in the district, Mayawati said this is an opportunity for the people to avenge the blight of Tikunia.
But if there is anger against Teni, it will be splintered. “What can we do,” asked Kulvinder Singh, a farmer from Naurangabad village. “Chaudhary (RLD leader Jayant Singh) should not have joined the NDA. Of course, we will fight and defeat Ajay Mishra. There are a lot of people unhappy with him.”

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It may not be easy. Months after the happenings in Tikunia, the BJP in 2022 swept not just the assembly seat of Lakhimpur but four others in the vicinity, stamping with authority its hold in the constituency. And this was after thousands of farmers had converged — representatives coming in from 75 districts of UP and each Indian state along with a bunch of opposition leaders – for the antim ardas (last rites) of the four dead villagers and the journalist, Raman Kashyap. They had then vowed to overthrow Teni and demanded his sacking as minister.
Mishra himself has been somewhat subdued in his campaign this time, as if unwilling to tempt fate. It hasn’t helped that the Supreme Court a few days ago expressed serious concern at reports that Ashish Mishra, a prime accused in the Tikunia case who’s out on bail, violated conditions to canvass for his father.
Importantly, some of the BJP legislators have refused to be seen with Mishra, complaining about his “highhandedness”. An MLA in Lakhimpur Kheri, requesting anonymity, told TOI, “If people don’t vote for him despite the Modi factor, the party shouldn’t be surprised. They can’t stand his arrogance. We had given feedback about a negative wave against Teni, but the brass decided to give him another chance, maybe because of the caste factor.”
Another MLA said, “I have been talking to people in my constituency and many say that they won’t support him. They love the BJP but they equally dislike Teni.”
Acharya Sanjay Mishra, VHP’s prant pracharak, said, “It’s true. Barring one MLA, the rest aren’t backing Teni. But the BJP will triumph because the vote is for PM Modi and (CM) Yogi Adityanath.”
Sprawling Lakhimpur Kheri, the biggest UP district in terms of size, with bountiful rivers crisscrossing it and giant forests forming a canopy over its head – is poised for a fight. In the district that borders Nepal – motorbikes from that country with their red registration plates whizz by frequently — one of those with high stakes in the battle is Pawan Kashyap, brother of the journalist who died in Tikunia.
“It’s been three years since bhai (brother) passed on. Of the 208 witnesses, only five have been examined. I’ve filed petitions to fast-track the case many times in the Supreme Court. It’s hard, but I get courage from those who’ve stood behind me. There is great resistance to Teni. Let’s see.”


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