NEW DELHI: Indian police have arrested the son of country’s junior home minister Ajay Mishra Teni on accusations that he ran over and killed four farmers protesting against contentious agriculture laws.
Ashish Mishra was arrested late Saturday after questioning that lasted the entire day, said Deputy Inspector General Upendra Agarwal, who is heading the probe. Mishra had not responded to a police summons on Friday. “We are taking Ashish Mishra in custody. He was not cooperating in the investigation,” Agarwal said.
The farmers, killed on Oct 3 in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, were part of India’s longest-running agricultural protest, opposing laws they fear will reduce guaranteed minimum prices for their crops.
Farmers say the car that crashed into the protesters, about 130 kilometres north of the state’s capital Lucknow, was owned by the son of the junior home minister.
Earlier, Ajay Mishra denied the allegations and claimed that his son was not at the site, adding that a car driven by “our driver” had lost control and hit the farmers after “miscreants” pelted it with stones and attacked it with sticks and swords.
The incident sparked protests that claimed four more lives, including that of a local journalist. Demands for the arrest of the minister’s son have grown since the incident, with protests cropping up in several other areas, as well.
Tens of thousands of farmers have camped for months on major highways to New Delhi to oppose the three laws. They say the legislation would erode a longstanding mechanism that gives farmers a minimum guaranteed price for their rice and wheat.
The protests have gained momentum in Uttar Pradesh ahead of a state assembly election next year, with a group of influential farmer leaders ratcheting up pressure on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to roll back the laws.