MP's son arrested over India farmer deaths

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Indian police have arrested the son of a junior minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government days after nine people died in a deadly escalation of year-long demonstrations by farmers against contentious agriculture laws in northern India.

Four farmers were killed last Sunday when a car owned by Junior Home Minister Ajay Mishra ran over a group of protesting farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri, a town in Uttar Pradesh state, officials and farm leaders said.

Farm leaders alleged Mishra's son was in the car when it ran over the protesters, but the minister denied it.

His driver and three members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party were all killed after being beaten by protesters in violence that broke out after the incident.

Police officer Upendra Agarwal said on Saturday the minister's son, Ashish Misra, was arrested after "he failed to furnish any supportive evidence to prove that he was not present in any of the three vehicles that ploughed through a crowd of farmers killing four of them".

Ajay Mishra said his son was innocent and was not present.

The arrest came a day after India's top court criticised the state government for not arresting Ashish Mishra. On Friday, he made the police wait for hours for questioning before sending a message that he was unwell and could not make it.

Darshan Pal, a farmers' leader, and Akhilesh Singh, an opposition Congress party leader, demanded the removal of Ajay Mishra from Modi's government.

Police earlier this week said they had so far arrested six people and filed a criminal complaint against 14 more, including the minister's son, in connection with the deaths of the four farmers.

The BJP lodged a criminal complaint against the farmers over the deaths of its members and the car driver, said Arvind Chaurasia, a senior official in charge of the district.

Police also said they recovered the body of a local journalist where the violence had taken place on 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.

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