Farmers from Uttar Pradesh and neighbouring states today offered “antim ardas” – the final prayers in the Sikh tradition – for the protesters killed in the recent violence, with their leaders vowing to intensify the agitation against the centre’s new farm laws.
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Rashtriya Lok Dal leader Jayant Chaudhary were part of the large gathering near Tikonia village, close to the spot where eight people were killed on October 3.
A local journalist was also among the dead. His family too sat on the dais, along with members of the families of the four farmers, displaying their framed photographs.
Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait repeated the schedule of protests planned by the farmers’ unions over the coming days, as they demanded the repeal of the laws and the resignation as well as the arrest of Union Minister Ajay Mishra.
The junior home minister’s son Ashish Mishra, alleged to be in one of the cars that knocked down the protesters, and three others have been arrested by a Special Investigation team.
Two others have approached the court, seeking to surrender.
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha said farmers from Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and other states attended the “ardas”.
Ms Gandhi Vadra bowed to the Guru Granth Sahib and offered flowers before the stage which had a poster with the pictures of the dead farmers.
Some hoardings indirectly targeting her were put up on the road to Lakhimpur, purportedly by a member of the state’s minorities commission. “Nahin chahiye farzi sahanabhuti (We don’t want fake sympathy)”, they said.
No political leader sat on the dais, according to the farmers’ decision announced earlier.
Ms Gandhi Vadra along with Congress leaders Deepender Singh Hooda, Ajay Kumar Lallu and others reached the venue around 1 pm and sat before the stage.
RLD leader Jayant Chaudhary was stopped by officials at the Bareilly airport for about 45 minutes before being allowed to proceed towards Lakhimpur.
A Congress spokesperson claimed there were reports of party leaders accompanying Priyanka Gandhi being stopped at the Sitapur toll point, leading to heated exchanges.
District Samajwadi Party president Rampal Singh Yadav was among the party leaders who attended the prayer meeting.
Uttar Pradesh police and paramilitary forces were deployed around the venue, with senior officers including an additional director general camping in Tikonia.
The ceremony followed the “akhand path” which began Sunday at the Kaudiyala Ghat gurdwara in the village.
Prayers were offered for farmers Daljeet Singh and Gurvinder Singh of Bahraich district, and Nachhatar Singh and Lavpreet Singh of Lakhimpur Kheri district. The brother and daughter of journalist Raman Kashyap were also part of the ceremony.
The farmers’ unions have given a call for burning the effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Dussehra, a six-hour “rail roko” on October 18 and a “Kisan Mahapanchayat” in the state capital on October 26.
Before this, the farmers’ ashes will be taken to different states and all 75 Uttar Pradesh districts as part of a “Shaheed Kisan Yatra”.