An attempt is being made to turn the Lakhimpur Kheri incident into a battle between Hindus and Sikhs, Bharatiya Janata Party MP Varun Gandhi said on Sunday.

He added: “Not only is this an immoral and false narrative, it is dangerous to create these fault-lines and reopen wounds that have taken a generation to heal. We must not put petty political gains above national unity.”

Gandhi was apparently pointing to Union minister Ajay Mishra’s accusation that farmers, under a Sikh separatist group’s influence, had attacked a convoy associated with him in Lakhimpur Kheri in Uttar Pradesh on October 3.

But farmers have alleged that the convoy owned by the minister rammed into a group of protestors staging a demonstration in Lakhimpur Kheri against the three agricultural laws. The minister’s son, Ashish Mishra, was reportedly in one of the cars. He also allegedly shot at the protestors.

The violence in Lakhimpur Kheri left eight people, including four farmers, dead. Ashish Mishra has been charged with multiple offences, including murder and criminal conspiracy, in connection with the case. He was arrested on Saturday.

The BJP MP said the fight for justice in Lakhimpur had no religious connotations, The Indian Express reported. “It is about the cruel massacre in the face of an arrogant local power elite,” he told the newspaper.

Gandhi added: “To use the word “Khalistani” liberally to describe the protesting farmers was not only an insult to the generations of these proud sons, but it is also extremely dangerous for our national unity if this provokes the wrong kind of reaction.”

The attack on peaceful protestors in Lakhimpur Kheri triggered a massive outrage across the country. The Opposition criticised the Adityanath-led BJP government in the Uttar Pradesh for the violence and its delay in taking action against the accused person.

On Thursday, Gandhi too condemned the violence and posted a video on Twitter showing a vehicle running over a group of unarmed protestors. He had said that farmers “cannot be silenced through murder”.

Hours after Gandhi’s tweet, the BJP removed him and his mother Maneka Gandhi from its national executive committee.

Also read: ‘We saw farmers being literally crushed’: Anger against BJP cuts across caste, religion in rural UP