Indian authorities have suspended internet services and told political leaders to stay away in a bid to restore calm after eight people were killed in a deadly escalation of a year-long demonstration against agriculture laws.
- Indian farmers have been protesting for more than a year against changes to the way agricultural goods are priced
- Four farmers are among those killed at Uttar Pradesh in northern India after a ministerial vehicle ran them over
- That sparked a violent response from protestors who attacked the car’s driver and passengers, claiming the minister’s son was inside, and killing four occupants
Four farmers died in the Uttar Pradesh town of Lakhimpur Kheri on Sunday when a car owned by Junior Home Minister Ajay Mishra ran over protesting farmers, officials and farm leaders said.
Mr Mishra said his driver — and three members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who were in the car — were all killed by the protesters in the violence that broke out after the incident.
“They were beaten to death by the farmers,” Mr Mishra said in a statement.
Farm leaders allege that the minister’s son was in the car when it ran over the protesters, but Mr Mishra has denied that.
Police on Monday registered a criminal complaint against 14 people, including the minister’s son, in connection with the death of the four farmers.
The BJP also lodged a criminal complaint against the protesting farmers over the death of its members and the car driver, said Arvind Chaurasia, a senior official in charge of the district.
Farm leaders are demanding a judicial investigation and compensation for the families of the deceased farmers.
They also want action against the minister and his son, saying Mr Mishra should be removed from office.
The violence marks an escalation in ongoing protests against agriculture laws that farmers say will shatter their livelihoods.
Protests have lasted since the government passed the laws, in September 2020, and have been one of the biggest challenges to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Last week, thousands of farmers gathered at the edges of the capital, New Delhi, to mark one year of demonstrations.
The government says the changes in the laws were needed to modernise agriculture and boost production through private investment.
However, the farmers say the laws will devastate their earnings by ending guaranteed pricing and will force them to sell their crops to corporations at cheaper prices.
Police officer Arun Kumar Singh said all schools were shut in the district and people have been advised to stay indoors after the violence 200 kilometres south-east of the Uttar Pradesh capital, Lucknow.
Authorities also barred leaders from various opposition parties from entering the district to meet the farmers, amid concerns it could cause more disorder.
Rakesh Tikait, a senior farmer leader, said the bodies of the victims would not be cremated until the government accepts their demands.
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