The Lakhimpur Kheri violence, in which four farmers were killed, is “absolutely condemnable,” Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Tuesday. However, Sitharaman also said that there are issues of such nature happening in other parts of India equally which should be raised “when they happen and not when it suits others” because there is a BJP government in Uttar Pradesh.
Sitharaman, who is on an official visit to the US, was responding to a question during a conversation at Harvard Kennedy School on Tuesday about the killing of four farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri and the arrest of Ashish Mishra, son of Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra.
Sitharaman was asked why there is no word on this from the prime minister, senior ministers and why there is a “defensive reaction” when somebody asks questions about such things.
“No, absolutely not… It’s nice of you to have picked up that one incident which is absolutely condemnable, every one of us say that. Equally, there are instances happening elsewhere, is my concern,” she said.
“And it’s not being defensive about my party or my Prime Minister. It’s being defensive about India. I will talk for India, I will talk for justice for the poor. I will not be mocked at. And if it is mocking, I will be defensive to stand up and say ‘Sorry, let’s talk on facts’. That’s my answer for you,” Sitharaman further added.
Stating that India has issues happening in different parts of the country, Sitharaman urged people to talk about all of them “equally.” ” I would like you, and many others, including Dr. Amartya Sen, who all know India, to raise it at every time when it happens, not just raise it when it suits us because it’s a state where BJP is in power, one of my cabinet colleague’s son is in probably trouble, and also assume that it’s actually them who did it and not anybody else. Due course of justice will also have a complete inquiry process to establish it,” she said.
On October 3, a convoy of three vehicles drove through a crowd of protesting farmers in Tikonia, Lakhimpur Kheri district of Uttar Pradesh. One of the cars belonged to Union Minister Ajay Mishra, and his son, Ashish, is alleged to have been behind the wheel. Four farmers were killed in the incident, while four others, including the Minister’s driver, two BJP workers and a journalist, died in subsequent protests. While Ajay Mishra has maintained his son was not present at the site of the accident, Ashish was arrested last Saturday and has been in police custody.
On the three farm laws against which thousands of farmers are protesting, Sitharaman said the legislations were brought in after by the government after dicussions by various parliamentary committees for over a decade.
“When the farm laws were brought in the Lok Sabha, there was an elaborate discussion and the agriculture minister gave his reply as well. It was only when it came to the Rajya Sabha, there was a lot of noise and disturbance,” she added.
Sitharamn further said the government has been saying that it is willing to talk with the protesters and has been engaging with them.
“The government has asked pointedly what is that one aspect in any one of the three laws which have been passed to which the protesters object,” she said. “We are willing to talk about it, tell us that one particular aspect in any one of the three laws. Till date, we have not had even one particular aspect which is being questioned. And therefore, the protesters are not sure on what score they are protesting, what is it that they are objecting.”