The son of an Indian minister was arrested and sent to police custody after he was accused of ramming his car into protesters last week in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, which left eight people dead.
Ashish Mishra, son of junior home minister Ajay Mishra, was sent to three days in police custody on charges of mowing down farmers who were protesting on 3 October at Lakhimpur Kheri. The accident killed four farmers and a local journalist. Later, an angry mob allegedly beat three people present in the car to death.
Mr Mishra has denied the accusation but has been unable to establish that he was elsewhere at the time of the accident. He claimed that he was at a wrestling event around 5km from the scene of the violence.
News website NDTV reported that Mr Mishra was missing between 2pm and 4pm that day, based on testimonials of police personnel posted at the event and people gathered at the venue.
Police officials said they questioned Mr Mishra for nearly 12 hours on Saturday. He had been summoned for questioning on Friday but did not turn up. He has been charged with offences such as murder and criminal conspiracy.
“We are taking Ashish Mishra in custody. He was not cooperating in the investigation,” deputy inspector general Upendra Agarwal told Reuters.
Police sources also said that the minister’s son has been “evasive” with his responses.
Mr Mishra was examined by a medical team in the crime branch office where he was interrogated. His arrest came a day after the Supreme Court of India reminded the state police that law must take its course irrespective of who the accused is. The incident led to widespread outrage because Mr Mishra was not arrested immediately after the violence.
Meanwhile, leaders from the opposition Indian National Congress observed a silent protest near the Lieutenant Governor’s office on Monday in Delhi. They also demanded the resignation of minister Mishra. The party called for a shutdown in the western state of Maharashtra on Monday to express their solidarity with farmers.
Swatantra Dev Singh, the Uttar Pradesh chief of BJP, has asked Ajay Mishra to meet him by Monday evening. He has not met Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath or Mr Singh to talk about the 3 October violence, according to IANS.
Mr Singh added that his party’s politics does not veer around “looting or mowing down people” with cars.
Of the three people killed inside the car in Lakhimpur Kheri on 3 October, two were BJP workers. Their families have alleged that no senior party leader has visited them so far.
Leaders from Congress party, including Priyanka Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, visited the families of the deceased farmers and the local journalist last week.
Tens of thousands of farmers have been protesting for nearly ten months now on the outskirts of Delhi against agricultural reforms that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) passed without substantive discussion in parliament last year. They have been demanding that the government repeal the reforms.