The Indian Police has arrested the son of the BJP’s Junior Home Minister Ajay Mishra in Narendra Modi’s government who was a suspect in the killings of 6 farmers during the protest against disputed agriculture laws.
Police officer Upendra Agarwal said that Ashish Mishra was arrested on Saturday after questioning Uttar Pradesh’s town Lakhimpur Kheri.
Earlier on Sunday, Farm leaders alleged a car owned by the minister’s son ran over a group of protesting farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri killing four people. They claimed that the minister’s son was in the vehicle at the time.
Ajay Mishra said that his son Ashish Mishra was not present at the incident but admitted that a car driven by his driver had lost control and hit the farmers after they threw stones at the car and attacked it with sticks and swords.
Three members of the ruling BJP and the driver were all killed by the protesters in the violence that broke out in the aftermath of the incident.
Agarwal said that Mishra was arrested after “he failed to furnish any supportive evidence to prove that he was not present in any of the three vehicles that plowed through a crowd of farmers killing four of them”.
The arrest came a day after India’s top court criticized the state government for not arresting Ashish Mishra.
On Friday, the minister’s son had kept the police waiting for hours only to send a message later that he was unwell and could not make it.
Earlier this week, Police said that they had so far arrested six suspects and filed a criminal complaint against other 14, including Ajay Mishra, in connection with the deaths of the four farmers.
The BJP also lodged a criminal complaint against the farmers over the deaths of its members and the car driver, said Arvind Chaurasia, a senior official in charge of the district.
Police also said that they recovered the body of a local journalist from the place where violence ensued on Sunday but did not provide further details on how he was killed.
The violence marked an escalation in continuing protests against agriculture laws that farmers say will shatter their livelihoods. The protests have lasted since the government passed the laws last September and have been one of the biggest challenges to 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 modernize agriculture and boost production through private investment. However. the farmers disagree saying that these laws will devastate their earnings by ending guaranteed pricing and will force them to sell their crops to corporations at cheaper prices.