Official's Car Runs Over Protesters, Driver and 3 Passengers Beaten to Death in Retaliation

After an Indian official's car ran over protesting farmers in a town in the state of Uttar Pradesh, killing four, demonstrators beat the official's driver and its three passengers to death in the ensuing violence on Sunday, the Associated Press reported.

The car is owned by Junior Home Minister Ajay Mishra, who said the three passengers were members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). "They were beaten to death by the farmers," Mishra said in a statement.

Mishra denied allegations from farm leaders that his son was inside the car when it ran over the protesters. Police said Monday that they had filed a criminal complaint against 14 people in connection with the protesters' deaths, including Mishra's son, and arrested six others, the AP reported.

The BJP filed its own criminal complaint against the protesting farmers for the killing of those inside the car, according to Arvind Chaurasia, a senior official in charge of the district.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

India Protests
After an Indian official's car ran over and killed protesting farmers in the town of Lakhimpur Kheri, protesters beat the car's driver and three of its passengers to death in the ensuing violence. Above, paramilitary force soldiers on Monday detain an activist protesting Sunday's killing of the four farmers. Manish Swarup/AP Photo

On Monday, Indian authorities suspended internet services and barred political leaders from entering the town of Lakhimpur Kheri to calm tensions after nine people were killed in a deadly escalation of a yearlong demonstration against contentious agriculture laws.

Police also said they recovered the body of a local journalist from the spot where violence ensued Sunday but did not provide further details on how he was killed.

The violence marked an escalation in ongoing protests against agriculture laws that farmers say will shatter their livelihoods. The protests have lasted since the government passed the laws last September and have been one of the biggest challenges to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Last week, thousands of farmers gathered at the edges of the capital city of New Delhi to mark one year of demonstrations. The government says the changes in the laws were needed to modernize agriculture and boost production through private investment. But the farmers say the laws will devastate their earnings by ending guaranteed pricing and will force them to sell their crops to corporations at cheaper prices.

Police officer Arun Kumar Singh told the AP that all schools have been shut in the district and people have been advised to stay indoors following the violence in Lakhimpur Kheri, 124 miles southeast of Uttar Pradesh's capital, Lucknow.

Authorities also barred leaders from various opposition parties from entering the district to meet the farmers amid concerns it could cause further disorder.

Senior police official Prashant Kumar said the administration would provide monetary compensation to the families of the deceased farmers and also set up a judicial inquiry to probe the violence. Farm leaders, however, demand action against the minister and his son, saying Mishra should be removed from office.

The deaths have led to more anger among farmers who rallied in multiple states, strengthening their protests. Opposition Congress Party also held a protest in New Delhi, where several party members scuffled with police and were later detained.

The protests are shaping up as a challenge to Modi's BJP during its reelection bid early next year in Uttar Pradesh, which is considered India's political bellwether state.

The rallies have been largely peaceful, though clashes in January left one protester dead and hundreds injured after demonstrators broke through police barricades to storm a historic fort in Delhi.

Thousands of farmers have camped for nearly a year on the outskirts of New Delhi, and more than a dozen rounds of talks between the government and the farmers have failed to resolve the issues.

Violence Breaks Out at India Protests
Activists protest on Monday against Sunday's killing of four demonstrating farmers who were run over by a car owned by India's junior home minister. Manish Swarup/AP Photo