Union Minister of State Ajay Mishra, whose son Ashish has been named in the police complaint into the deadly violence in Uttar Pradesh that left eight people dead over the weekend, has told NDTV that the vehicle was seen running over farmers, allegedly triggering the clashes, was indeed his. However, the minister said neither he nor his son was present at the spot when the incident happened.
"From Day One, we have been clear that the [Mahindra] Thar is ours, which is registered in our name. And the vehicle was going to receive someone after picking up our workers. Our son was at another venue. From 11 am till the evening, he was organising another event. My son was present there, there were thousands there. There are photos and videos. If you take out his call records and CDR, location... can check all. Thousands of people are willing to give an affidavit also that Ashish Mishra was there," Ajay Mishra told NDTV in an interview.
"As far as the vehicle is concerned, I was clear that my driver was killed, two workers were killed. One worker escaped, three workers are injured, and after that, the car stopped there. After that, the car was pushed and the vehicle and another Fortuner was burnt. Such people can't be farmers. These are extremists hidden amongst farmers," he said.
The minister's clarification came on a day when a video, purportedly of the minister's SUV running over slogan-shouting farmers marching in Uttar Pradesh's Lakhimpur Kheri, was widely shared on social media including by Varun Gandhi, an MP of the ruling BJP.
The video, being shared widely on social media, is yet to be verified by the police. NDTV cannot independently verify its authenticity. It is also not clear from the visuals who is in the driving seat. The farmers have alleged that the protesters were run over by an SUV driven by Ashish Mishra.
The incident took place when a group of protesting farmers in the Tikonia area of Kheri tried to block Mr Mishra and Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya from visiting. The protesters were upset over a recent speech by Mr Mishra.
Asked about the speech in which he had said "Face me, it will take just two minutes to discipline you fellows", which seems to have angered the farmers before Sunday's violence, Ajay Mishra said his comments were misunderstood.
"If you look at the full speech, it was given in a gathering of farmers. On September 25, in front of a gurudwara, I had made that speech in a gathering of farmers and in that, I had spoken of people who tore the posters at night, and it was said that these people can't be farmers. Who tore the pictures of Bharat Mata, the PM, our hoardings before a Kisan sammelan? They are rowdy, violent. And there should be action against these violent people. That's what I said, that you better reform, or else the state and the administration will fix you through its laws," Mr Mishra said.
The minister declined to say if he had been questioned by the police.
Speaking about his son's name in the FIR, he said, "Police did not add his name to FIR. They were made to add by people who gave the complaint. In the complaint, he is mentioned. This is a matter of investigation, it will all get clear after investigation. I have clearly told you we have proof. It is not without evidence that we are saying. There is a 3-4 km distance between the site of the incident and the event venue. He was continuously at the event venue. He did not go to the scene, neither did I."
Mr Mishra denied he was under any kind of pressure to step down after the incident. "Why would I [resign]? There is no pressure on us, We will investigate this, and those involved, who conspired, will take action against them," he said.