Congress MP Rahul Gandhi on Thursday told the Lok Sabha that Union minister Ajay Mishra was a criminal who should be sacked from his post, referring to the report of the Special Investigation Team of the Uttar Pradesh Police stating that the Lakhimpur Kheri violence was planned, NDTV reported. The minister’s son Ashish Mishra is a key accused in the case.

Opposition leaders staged protests and shouted slogans in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, demanding Ajay Mishra’s resignation. Both the Houses were adjourned for the day after it reconvened at 2 pm.

Four farmers were among the eight people who were killed in the district in Uttar Pradesh on October 3 during a protest against the agricultural laws. Farmer bodies have alleged that a vehicle belonging to Ashish Mishra had run over protestors. Mishra was arrested on October 9.

As the proceedings began on Thursday, Rahul Gandhi said, “We should be allowed to speak about the murder that was committed in Lakhimpur Kheri, where there was an involvement of the minister and about which it has been said that it was a conspiracy.”

He added that the “minister who killed farmers should resign and be punished”, according to India Today.

However, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said that the Opposition members were deliberately stalling work, NDTV reported. He added that the government was unwilling to discuss the Lakhimpur Kheri violence and that the Special Investigation Team’s observations in the case were sub-judice.

“But there are other things to talk about,” Joshi said. “I am appealing to the Opposition to discuss this. If we have made mistakes, then give us constructive suggestions. We are ready to talk about Covid, for example.”

Joshi added: “There is a lot of time left in the 2024 elections. We will also do ‘khela’ [play games] at the time of the Lok Sabha election, you also do the same, but let Parliament discussions take place now.”

On Wednesday, Gandhi had moved an adjournment motion in the Lok Sabha demanding removal of Ajay Mishra.

The Congress MP had also said they wanted a discussion in the Parliament on the violence, which was allegedly denied by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

On Thursday, Congress General Secretary KC Venugopal said it was very unfortunate that the government did not want to discuss the matter, reported ANI. He said that the government should issue a statement on it.

The Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, claimed that Ashish Mishra and his friends had killed the farmers and that the Congress wanted to present this before the House.

“Minister [Ajay Mishra] Teni had once told the farmers to break their satyagraha [peaceful protest], otherwise, he knows how to make it happen within two minutes,” Kharge said. “Maybe his son acted on this.”

The Congress leader also said that Modi was not taking action in the case despite the investigation team’s report and it meant that he was protecting the accused persons.

Opposition parties in UP also demand minister’s removal

Proceedings at the Uttar Pradesh Assembly were also disrupted on Thursday as Opposition parties in the state demanded Ajay Mishra’s removal from Union Cabinet, reported PTI.

After the House assembled in the morning, Congress leader Aradhana Mishra came into the well of the House with her party members and raised slogans in support of their demand. The Samajwadi Party and Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party leaders joined them.

Outside the Assembly building, Uttar Pradesh Congress legislators and party members also staged a demonstration demanding Mishra’s removal.

The legislators, led by the Congress’ state unit chief Ajay Kumar Lallu, shouted slogans against the central government.

“It is now clear that the government is not serious and is not doing justice to the farmers,” Lallu said.

He said that party leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra have constantly been demanding Mishra’s removal.

“Yesterday, too, Rahul Gandhi wanted a discussion in the Lok Sabha over the matter but the government is running away,” Lallu said. “What is the compulsion that Mishra is not being sacked even after the SIT report... why is he being saved.”

He also criticised the Union minister after he was caught misbehaving with journalists on camera. On Wednesday, Mishra was seen in a video abusing and manhandling a journalist on being questioned about the Special Investigation Team’s report.

“The Congress will raise this issue strongly in the [Uttar Pradesh] Vidhan Sabha,” Lallu said. “Our fight will continue until Mishra is not sacked.”

SIT report

Besides Ashish Mishra, 12 people have been arrested in connection with the Lakhimpur Kheri case. They are facing charges of criminal conspiracy and murder.

On Tuesday, the Uttar Pradesh Police moved an application before a local court, seeking to add charges of attempt to murder (Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code) and “voluntarily causing grievous hurt” (Section 326) as well as sections of the Arms Act to the chargesheet filed against the accused persons.

The Special Investigation Team, that is conducting an inquiry into the case, sought to add these charges as it found that the deaths in Lakhimpur Kheri did not take place because of negligence but “there was a deliberate and planned conspiracy with intention to kill”, Senior Prosecuting Officer SP Yadav had said.

Chief Judicial Magistrate Chinta Ram allowed the police to invoke those charges against the accused persons, Yadav added.