In what is likely to rile up the Opposition further, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay Mishra Teni is set to grace the 58th anniversary parade of the Sashatra Seema Bal (SSB) as the chief guest on December 20.
The honour for Teni comes amid demands for him to resign or be sacked after a special investigation team (SIT) probing the October 3 Lakhimpur Kheri violence, in which his son is an accused, termed it a “pre-planned conspiracy”. A video clip from Wednesday purportedly showing the minister abusing journalists in Lakhimpur has added fuel to fire.
The SSB parade is one among many government functions Ajay Mishra Teni is scheduled to attend in the next four days.
“Invitation has been sent to all and his office confirmed that he will be attending the function for sure. The minister would grace the occasion and would be the chief guest for our 58th anniversary parade, scheduled to be held on Monday in Delhi,” a senior SSB official told News18.com.
Teni’s son Ashish Mishra and 12 others were booked in October after a speeding SUV crushed four farmers and a local journalist to death while they were returning from a protest against the now-repealed farm laws in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri. Two BJP workers and the vehicle’s driver were then killed in the violence that followed, taking the death to eight. Two separate FIRs were filed into the incident that came months before elections in the state.
Following the SIT’s submission to the court this week of the incident being a “pre-planned conspiracy”, the Lakhimpur Chief Judicial Magistrate allowed it to add IPC sections 307 (attempt to murder) and 326 (voluntarily causing injuries by dangerous weapons) to the FIR in which Ashish Mishra is the main accused. Relevant charges under the Arms Act were also allowed to be added, while charges under section 302 (murder) were retained.
Asked for his reaction to the development on Wednesday, the Union minister lost his cool at journalists in Lakhimpur, calling them “thieves”. A memorandum submitted by reporters also accused Teni of scuffling with them and snatching a reporter’s mobile phone.
“Don’t ask questions like a fool. Have you lost your mind? (Dimag kharab hai kya),” he is heard saying in Hindi in a viral video of the exchange. “What do you want to know? You turned an innocent person into an accused. Aren’t you ashamed?”
In the clip, the minister is also purportedly heard calling the media chor (thieves), and angrily asking a journalist to switch off his mobile phone.
Criticising the Union minister for using “foul language” against journalists, the Opposition has demanded Teni’s immediate removal from the Union Cabinet. Both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha saw repeated disruptions on Thursday as opposition parties demanded a discussion.
In the Lok Sabha, Trinamool Congress members, who had earlier stayed away from joining forces with the opposition on the issue, were in the Well of the House raising slogans along with members of the Congress and Left parties.
“He is a ‘criminal’, action should be taken against him,” Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said in the Lower House. “Your minister here has attacked farmers. He should resign. His involvement is there. There has been a conspiracy. He should be punished for that. He should be removed from the government.”
The Congress in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh has announced state-wide protests to press for Teni’s removal.
While the minister has been avoiding the media after Wednesday’s incident, his schedule for the next five days is packed with government functions. Sources told News18.com that Teni is also keeping official engagements in other states.