The initial report of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) on the infamous Lakhimpur has definitely dampened the inflated ego of the BJP. The ruling party was celebrating the Varanasi extravaganza and it was readying to ride on the just concluded colourful Kashi Show which was given a palpable religious fragrance to win the upcoming UP assembly poll. But the SIT probe report has pierced spokes on the wheels of the saffron juggernaut. The report has found union home minister of state, Ajay Mishra Teni’s son Ashish Mishra guilty of murder, attempt to murder and hatching conspiracy against farmers in Lakhimpur has put the saffron party completely on back foot. On October 3, this year eight people including four farmers were killed in Lakhimpur while they were taking out a protest march against farm laws. The SIT report has indicted Ashish Mishra of killing the agitating famers by crushing under his SUV.
The SIT in its application before the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) has pleaded the court to include new sections against the 13 accused to make their offence punishable under attempt to murder charges. In the earlier probe by the UP state police had charged the union minister’s son, the prime accused in the farmer killing case was charged under IPC sections 279 (rash driving/riding), 338 (causing grievous injuries by negligence) and 304A (causing death by a rash and negligent act) with IPC section 307 (attempt to murder). The current SIT probe has charged the accused under severe IPC sections 302 (murder), 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with a deadly weapon), 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object) and 120B (criminal conspiracy). The report also has further recommended invoking IPC 326 (voluntarily causing injuries by dangerous weapons), 34 (acts by several persons with common intentions) and sections 3/25/30 of the Arms Act against the accused. The SIT has in its report affirms that the killing of the agitating farmers was part of a ‘pre-planned’ conspiracy.
The accused were arrested on FIR number 219, in connection with the killing of four farmers and a local journalist in Tikunia.
Till now Union Minister Teni has been arguing that his son was not present at the spot of the crime and if proved he would resign from the union cabinet. With the SIT report finding his son guilty of killing and recommended the court to add murder charges against the accused the minister is in a precarious position. There is every reason to speculate, keeping in view of the upcoming critical assembly election in UP Prime Minister Modi may decide to drop Teni from his cabinet.
However, a few TV anchors were overzealous in protecting and absolving the controversial union minister from the “crime his son committed”. Some TV anchors argue that the SIT never indicted” the union ministers “so “no need for him to resign”. Yesterday, during an evening debate on the SIT report in a Hindi News channel the well dressed good looking young anchor was sweating out to depict the union minister “not guilty” and was repeatedly harping on the point “SIT in its report has not mentioned the name of the minister in question. So, how can we demand his resignation from the union cabinet?” Accusing the anchor for “defending the minister who’s role in the conspiracy is suspected” a senior journalist who was one of the panellists in the show irritatingly said “you are behaving like a BJP spokesperson, better talk like a journalist or else I will quit the show.”
Being a member of the fourth estate I often felt ashamed at the unreasonably pro-saffron bias shown by a section of the TV anchors. Maybe they are less guided by journalistic ethics and more by other considerations. We have seen many journalists, mostly those with news channels, compromising journalistic principles, morals, and standards for pecuniary, personal gains. Their prejudiced practises have terribly eroded the credibility of the fourth estate which has been considered the watchdog of democracy.