Tikait unruffled as miffed Mayawati issues arrest order

April 1st, 2008 - 1:03 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Bahujan Samaj Party
By Ritu Sharma
Sisauli, April 1 (IANS) The Bahujan Samaj Party’s (BSP) social engineering to bring together the upper and lower castes has impressed all but farmer leader Mahendra Singh Tikait. The Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) head is unremorseful over his caste-laced diatribe against Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati. Seated at the verandah of his double-storey house here, Tikait seemed least perturbed about the arrest warrant issued against him for allegedly abusing the BSP chief at a farmers’ rally in Bijnore district Sunday.

“She has the majority (of seats in the assembly), that is why Mayawati is behaving like a dictator. We (farmers) don’t get adequate prices for sugarcane crop. We don’t get electricity and water. On top of it, we can’t even complain,” Tikait, 73, told IANS as hordes of supporters surrounded him.

His supporters were equally harsh on the BSP leader. “Mayawati is akin to Musharraf,” declared one of them, comparing her to the increasingly unpopular Pakistan president.

“The police claim that we opened fire at them is baseless. Instead, we farmers have been treated like terrorists,” an anguished farmer said.

Tikait’s enraged supporters Monday fought pitched battles with security personnel as a house-to-house hunt was launched to arrest the farmer leader at Sisauli village in Muzaffarnagar, the BKU headquarters.

Eventually, the police backed off although they said they were determined to arrest Tikait. The government slapped a case under the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe Act, which forbids derogatory epithets based on caste.

If convicted, Tikait could be in jail for up to two years.

Tikait’s son Surinder and nine others have been arrested for Monday’s violence, which left around two dozen people including a few policemen injured.

“The police are acting at the behest of Mayawati and we cannot be happy under her rule,” the farmer leader said, nonchalantly preparing a chillum (hookah).

“Hum ke kite gaye hain, kar lo giraftar!” (I have not gone anywhere, let them arrest me!)”

The incident threatens to snowball into a political crisis with opposition parties throwing their weight behind Tikait, who inherited the ‘chaudharyship’ (head post) of the roughly 84 Khap villages from his father at the age of 13.

“I got messages of support from (Samajwadi Party chief and former chief minister) Mulayam Singh Yadav and (Bharatiya Janata Party president) Rajnath Singh. All of them spoke to me over telephone,” Tikait said.

A panchayat was convened at the village to discuss a way out of the volatile situation. Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) president Ajit Singh and MP Anuradha Chowdhury reached the panchayat along with thousands of Tikait’s supporters.

Deploring Mayawati’s intolerance for criticism, Ajit Singh said on the sidelines of the panchayat: “Mayawati has got into the habit of arresting people on trivial issues.”

The tension has apparently simmered down for the time being. The panchayat will meet again April 8.

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