"He was not cooperating in the investigation."
The son of an Indian minister has been arrested just days after being accused of causing the deaths of four protesting farmers.
Ashish Mishra, who is the son of the country’s Junior Home Minister Ajay Mishra, was sent to judicial custody for 14 days.
The fatal incident occurred in Lakhimpur Kheri in Uttar Pradesh on Sunday, October 4, 2021.
Mishra said that his driver and three members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were in the car and then killed by protesters after violence broke out following the incident.
Although it is believed that the car was owned by Mishra, he claimed that he was not present at the scene.
He said that “our driver” lost control and began attacking the farmers.
A journalist’s body was also recovered the following day, bringing the total death count from that weekend up to nine.
Police arrested the minister’s son late on Saturday, October 9, 2021, after questioning him for more than 12 hours.
Mishra was told to appear before the authorities for questioning the previous day but did not turn up.
Deputy Inspector General Upendra Agarwal said:
“We are taking Ashish Mishra in custody. He was not cooperating in the investigation.”
Two other men were also arrested in connection with the incident on Thursday, October 7, 2021.
State officials appointed a retired High Court judge to launch an investigation to establish the full circumstances.
They also announced that Rs. 4.5 million (£44,000) would be paid in compensation to the families of the victims.
However, the Supreme Court said they “were not satisfied with the steps taken [by the state government]”.
The court also questioned why the minister’s son had not been arrested after being accused of as serious a crime as murder.
Chief Justice NV Ramana added that the Supreme Court also disapproved of the current investigation team since “the people in the commission, they’re all local officers.”
Indian police confirmed that they had arrested six people and filed a criminal complaint against 14 more, including the Indian minister’s son.
Meanwhile, the BJP also lodged a criminal complaint against the farmers over the deaths of its members and the driver of the car.
The recent violence comes after a year of largely peaceful protests against farming laws passed by the Indian government in September 2020.
Referred to as ‘black laws,’ they deregulate the industry and allow farmers to sell products to buyers beyond wholesale markets without minimum price assurances.
Small traders say that the changes make them vulnerable to competition from large businesses and that they could eventually lose price support for staples foods such as wheat and rice.
However, the government believes that the legislation is needed to modernise agriculture and boost production through private investment.