Farmer leader Rakesh Tikait has been the most vociferous critic of the BJP government for the last 10 months — he has been blocking one half of the Ghazipur Border to Delhi and has even toured election-bound states like West Bengal to rally against the BJP. But Tikait has emerged as an unlikely ‘trouble-shooter’ for the BJP government in Lakhimpur in Uttar Pradesh.
Sample this: On Tuesday, after a compromise truce struck between Tikait and the government a day earlier threatened to collapse as families of the four dead farmers refused to cremate the bodies, it was Tikait who took the mantle of visiting each family to convince them.
Except the body of farmer Gurvinder Singh which will undergo a second autopsy now as the family suspected he was shot, the bodies of the three other farmers were cremated on Tuesday evening after Tikait’s intervention. Tikait also visited the family of the slain journalist, Raman Kashyap, and said Kashyap “was very much a farmer too”. On Monday, Tikait had a joint press conference with UP’s top cop Prashant Kumar.
“The role played by Tikait is very strange. He was the only one allowed entry into Lakhimpur by the UP government. It was very surprising that the families agreed to a Rs 45 lakh compensation and gave permission for a post-mortem without pressing upon for the arrest of the Union minister’s son who has in fact not been arrested even till now. Our conversations with the families show they just listened to Tikait,” an opposition leader told News18, wishing to remain anonymous on this issue.
Another opposition leader pointed to a “mediator” role played by an IPS officer and former Noida SSP Ajay Pal Sharma who is posted with UP’s ‘Dial 122’ Service. He was dispatched to Lakhimpur given his past contacts there.
What all has Tikait done?
“The UP government sent such a high-level team so a compromise was achieved,” Tikait said on Monday after a surprise joint press conference with the UP government team where Tikait on the behalf of the families of the four dead farmers accepted the Rs 45 lakh compensation, promise of a government job, and top-level probe and an FIR against the accused.
The demands were negotiated after a series of rounds of talks between Tikait, the families and the government. The families earlier wanted the arrest of the minister’s son and expulsion of the Union minister but finally did not insist and agreed for the autopsies. Tikait was allowed entry into Lakhimpur late on Sunday night by administration while all politicians were blocked.
On Tuesday, however, the compromise seemed to fall through as all four families refused to cremate the bodies. The night earlier, RLD leader Jayant Choudhury had managed to visit these families while Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Akhilesh Yadav are said to have spoken to the families on phone.
The families on Tuesday insisted that the minister’s son be arrested first and all bodies must undergo an autopsy again as no bullet-wounds were reflected in the first autopsies. A TMC delegation of Sushmita Dev and Dola Sen also reached the families by afternoon, and a resolution seemed tough.
But enter Tikait again. He visited all four families during the day and held talks with them again, upon which three of the families agreed for the cremation to be held in the evening, in what was a big relief to the government.
The fourth family, of Gurvinder Singh, did not agree but with Tikait’s intervention, it has been ensured that a team of doctors from PGI will come to Bahraich and conduct the second autopsy as the family suspects he was shot. Two of the farmer families have in fact also accepted cheques of Rs 45 lakh each from the government on Tuesday evening.
Tikait on his part spoke harshly against the minister and said there must be tough action on him and his son. He also said farmers will embark on their next strategy of agitation once the mourning period of the four farmers is over. For now though, the curious case of Tikait and his role in Lakhimpur is a topic of much debate.
First Published: IST