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Son of India govt. minister arrested over deaths at farmer protest

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Villagers look at a burned shell of a car that ran over and killed farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri in Uttar Pradesh state, India, on Monday, October 4, 2021. (Photo by AP)

The son of an Indian minister has been arrested on preliminary charges of murder, police said Sunday, a week after the death of eight people during a farmers' protest sparked national outrage.

Ashish Mishra was detained in Uttar Pradesh late Saturday over the incident in the northern state's Lakhimpur Kheri district, where farmers were demonstrating as part of their year-long campaign against contentious agriculture laws.

Farmers claimed that a convoy belonging to Mishra and his father -- the junior home affairs minister Ajay Mishra -- slammed into protesters, killing four of them.

Angry demonstrators then set fire to several cars and four other people, including a driver and a journalist, were killed, according to authorities and local media reports.

Mishra was arrested on grounds of "non-cooperation" and "evasive replies" during an hours-long interrogation, Deputy Inspector General of Police Upendra Kumar Agrawal told reporters.

Mishra will face court on Monday and formal charges have to be filed within 90 days. Mishra and his father have denied the allegations.

India's Supreme Court had said Friday that it was "not satisfied" with the police investigation of the case and questioned why the younger Mishra had not yet been arrested.

The incident was the deadliest since farmers started camping on the outskirts of the capital New Delhi in November demanding a repeal of the controversial laws.

The agriculture sector, which employs some two-thirds of India's 1.3 billion population, has long been a political minefield.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government says the sector is massively inefficient and in need of reform.

But farmers fear the changes will leave them at the mercy of big corporations.

(Source: AFP)

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