‘Aren’t we also farmers?’: Families of BJP workers killed in Lakhimpur deal with grief and anger

The families of Shubham Mishra and Shyam Sundar also say they’ve been told nothing about compensation for the deaths.

‘Aren’t we also farmers?’: Families of BJP workers killed in Lakhimpur deal with grief and anger
(left) Shyam Sundar and (right) Shubham Mishra with his family.|Gobindh VB
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Among the eight people who died in Lakhimpur Kheri district of Uttar Pradesh on October 3 are two BJP workers: Shubham Mishra, 26, and Shyam Sundar, 32.

A day after the violence, on October 4, farmer leader Rakesh Tikait made his way to Lakhimpur Kheri and engaged in multiple rounds of talks with the Uttar Pradesh administration.

After hours of negotiating, a deal was brokered. The families of the four farmers who died would be compensated with Rs 45 lakh each and an FIR would be filed against Ashish Mishra, the son of union minister Ajay Mishra. Ashish is alleged to have been present in one of the three vehicles that rammed into the protesting farmers.

During Tikait’s negotiations, large crowds gathered in the Tikunia area where the violence had taken place. The farmers kept the bodies of the four deceased at the site of the protest until Tikait announced that a deal had been reached. The bodies were then sent for postmortem, even as the area thronged with protesters, reporters and security personnel.

At the same time, the families of Shubham Mishra and Shyam Sundar conducted quiet cremations for their loved ones. So far, there has been no talk of any compensation for these families.

Prashant Kumar, the additional director general of law and order in Uttar Pradesh, was present in the negotiation for the farmer’s compensation. He confirmed to Newslaundry that the families of the BJP workers have not been promised any compensation. “Nobody or no party has made any demand from their end,” he said.

Shyam Sundar worked for BJP for the past eight years and Shubham Mishra for five.

This is their story.

‘Ashish and Shyam were like brothers’

On October 5, two days after the violence, a video emerged on social media.

Taken on October 3, the 28-second video showed a man in a white shirt, blood dripping from his face, folding his hands and pleading with a crowd. The man has since been identified as Shyam Sundar.

Farmers asked him, “Did Teni [Ajay Mishra] send you to kill people?”

The man, visibly terrified, replied, “Yes, yes. Teni sent me. He said there’s a crowd there and I should go see it..."

A protester cut him off and asked, “He asked you to cause an accident?”

“No, I can’t say that..." the man began but he was quickly interrupted again by enraged protesters.

That was the last time Shyam Sundar was seen alive. He died soon after; there is little clarity as to what exactly happened to him.

Shyam's father Balak Ram Mishra and Shyam's  friend Karan Singh.

Shyam's father Balak Ram Mishra and Shyam's friend Karan Singh.

Three days later, Newslaundry met his family in their home in Singhai.

Sitting in a corner of the three-room home, which has a large courtyard, his wife was inconsolable, her face covered by her yellow sari. As soon as Shyam Sundar’s name was mentioned, she burst into tears.

“What will happen now? How will I live now?” she cried.

Her three year old daughter watched her mother weep on the floor, while her two-and-a-half year old daughter slept on a charpoy nearby.

On the morning of October 3, Shyam had tea at home and then left at around 8 am for Banveerpur, around 25 km away. He was going to attend a wrestling match being organised by Ashish Mishra at Banveerpur, which is also the hometown of minister Ajay Kumar Mishra.

This wasn’t unusual; for the last 12 years, Shyam would often attend any event organised or attended by the minister’s son, Ashish Mishra, because they were close friends.

“He knew Monu” – Ashish’s nickname – “much before their family got into politics,” said Shyam’s father Balak Ram Mishra, 65. “They were like brothers.”

At around 4 pm, news began pouring in about violence at Tikunia, barely two km from the site of the wrestling match.

“Many people from our village had gone to see the dangal,” said Balak Ram. “So, we started hearing from different families in our village itself about the violence.”

At 5 pm, Shyam’s friend Karan Singh received a phone call. “I was told that Shyam was injured,” he told Newslaundry. “There was a lot of confusion. Videos started pouring in. Then I was informed that he’s being brought to Lakhimpur for treatment.”

At 9 pm, Karan reached the emergency ward at the Lakhimpur Kheri district hospital. But as soon as he reached, he was called to the postmortem ward.

“When I went there, I saw Shyam’s body, Hari Om’s body, and Raman Kashyap’s body,” he said.

Hari Om was Ajay Kumar Mishra’s driver, while Raman Kashyap was a journalist. Both died in the violence that day.

“Hari Om was also my friend,” Karan said. “Shyam’s body was right next to Raman Kashyap’s body. I immediately informed his family.”

On the morning of October 4, Shyam Sundar was cremated in his village. He is survived by his parents, wife, two children, three brothers, and four sisters.

While Shyam’s friendship with Ashish dates back 12 years, his active involvement with the BJP began eight years ago.

“He was the mandal mantri [area leader] here and looked after any issues that happened,” said Karan, who has also been associated with the BJP for the last five years. Karan also works with Ajay Kumar Mishra as a driver while Shyam would work as a labourer outside of party work.

Despite Shyam’s long history with Ashish, the family said they’ve received no phone calls or visits from the minister or his son. When asked if this upsets him, Balak Ram immediately said, “They must be busy. It’s okay. We understand.”

Does the family think Ashish was in the car with Shyam? “No, Ashish was not there,” said Shyam’s father at once.

While the family told Newslaundry that, like the families of the deceased farmers, they also want compensation, they also confirmed that nobody has spoken to them about it thus far.

‘He easily made friends’

In his home in Lakhimpur Kheri city, Vijay Mishra sat on a chair, speaking to reporters.

“What kind of farmers are these?” he said. “These are not farmers, they’re terrorists, they’re anti nationals...” He repeated a variation of these statements to multiple journalists.

Vijay is the father of Shubham Mishra. His son’s death on October 3 has left him angry and heartbroken at the same time.

Praveen Mishra, Shubham’s neighbour and childhood friend, recalled that on October 2, Shubham Mishra was down with a fever. “He was on the bed and refusing to go out anywhere,” he said. Nevertheless, the next morning by 9 am, Shubham left for Banveerpur to attend the wrestling match organised by Ashish Mishra. He had to travel approximately 80 km, about two hours, to reach the site of the event.

Around 4.30 pm, Praveen received a call from a local journalist friend who informed him that Shubham had been injured during the violence. Praveen passed the message on to Shubham’s family, who panicked and tried to call Shubham on his phone. But Shubham’s phone was switched off.

By 9 pm, Praveen went to the postmortem ward of the Lakhimpur Kheri district hospital along with Shubham’s father, uncle and older brother. There, they identified his body. He was cremated the following morning.

Shubham is survived by his wife, one-year-old daughter, his parents, and his brother. His family owns seven or eight acres of land where they grow sugarcane.

Vijay said Shubham had recently become friends with Ashish Mishra.

“But he was always a loyal BJP supporter,” he added. “In the last one year, he was appointed as booth adhyaksh [ incharge] in this area.” Apart from working for the BJP, Shubham also worked in the finance department of a private company.

His family and friends remember him as someone who got along easily with everyone. “That’s why he was good at being a BJP worker as well,” said Praveen. “He easily made friends. People liked him a lot.”

Shubham’s wife and mother refused to speak to the media; their family explained that they were unable to handle the grief of their loss.

Vijay said he spoke to minister Ajay Kumar Mishra a day after Shubham’s death and demanded an investigation into those who killed his son. “He also agreed,” Vijay said. No conversations were had about compensation.

Days after his death, Shubham’s family is very angry.

“Why are those terrorists being shown as farmers and we being shown as BJP karyakartas?” asked Vijay. “Aren’t we also farmers? Those who were protesting that day are not farmers, they’re Khalistanis.”

The term “Khalistani” was first used last November by Amit Malviya, head of the BJP IT cell, to defame the farmer protests at Delhi’s borders. The term quickly gained currency in the media and on social media. Now, it’s made its way to the ground.

Also Read :
Two farmers attended their first ever protest in Lakhimpur on October 3. It was also their last
Lakhimpur Kheri violence: Eyewitnesses recall what they saw on October 3
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