Delhi on January 26 was in the grips of a horrifying spate of violence and vandalism when a legion of protesters breached the police barricades along the borders to rush into the city. The rampaging mob ran riot, destroying and damaging public properties and vehicles in its wake. Protesting mobs reached the Red Fort, where they desecrated the historic monument by hoisting religious flags.
Soon after violence and bedlam characterised the tractor rally, whose permission was sought under the pretext of carrying out a peaceful march, the role of the so-called farmer leaders representing the ‘protesters’ —Rakesh Tikait and Yogendra Yadav—came under the scanner for egging on the protesters to use brute and violence during the rally.
Acting against the lumpen elements, the Delhi Police filed an FIR under stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and Section 124(A)(sedition) to probe a larger conspiracy and criminal design behind the violent tractor rally. The FIR mentioned Bharatiya Kisan Union(BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait for spearheading and inciting the mob that wreaked havoc in Delhi.
Who is Rakesh Tikait?
Rakesh Tikait has emerged as one of the prominent leaders leading the ‘farmers’ agitation against the three Farm Bills passed by the Centre in September 2020. He is the current spokesperson of the Bharatiya Kisan Union(BKU), an organisation co-founded by his father, Mahendra Singh Tikait, and currently led by his elder brother Naresh Tikait.
Rakesh received the legacy of his father Mahendra Singh Tikait, one of the foremost farmer leaders in the 1980s. Mahendra was believed to have enjoyed widespread support from the farmers which he leveraged in the Delhi’s power corridors to influence the government’s policies regarding agriculture and farmers. The Bharatiya Kisan Union came into existence in 1987, when the farmers under the leadership of Mahendra Singh Tikait carried out a big movement in Karmukheri in Shamli district. The movement had resulted in the death of two farmers—Jaipal and Akbar. It was after the incident that the BKU was formed and Mahendra Tikait was made its president.
After completing his MA and LLB from Meerut University, Rakesh Tikait had joined Delhi Police as Sub-Inspector in 1985. Soon, in the 1990s, Rakesh quit from Delhi Police and took the plunge into politics, following into the footsteps of his father and elder brother. Though Naresh Tikait is the current president of the Bhartiya Kisan Union(BKU), it is alleged that the organisation’s functioning is largely controlled by Rakesh Tikait, who takes all significant decisions in consultation with his elder brother.
Rakesh Tikait had once supported Farm Bills
However, as the opposition against the Farm Bills started gaining strength, with political parties using it as an issue to corner the Modi government, Rakesh Tikait pulled off an about-turn—from allegedly congratulating the Prime Minister on reforms to becoming one of the most vehement opposers of the Agriculture Laws.
Rakesh Tikait and the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots
While Tikait has been desperately trying to prise out political mileage from the ongoing farmers’ protests, it is pertinent to note that this is not the first time that Rakesh has been accused of fomenting unrest. About seven years back in 2013, Rakesh was booked for stoking communal disharmony with his allegedly inflammatory speeches which eventually led to 2013 Muzaffarnagar flare-up. Rakesh had been booked for stoking communal disharmony in the run-up to 7 September 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots.
According to the residents of Muzaffarnagar, Rakesh Tikait and his brother, Naresh, had both been “primary culprits” for the gruesome communal flare-up witnessed by the town. Rakesh had reportedly attended the mahapanchayat on September 7 and the police had booked him for whipping up communal passions through his incendiary speeches.
Tikait had then admitted that he did attend the mahapanchayat meeting but washed his hands off the violence that ensued in its wake. He alleged that the crowds were out of control and they were not listening to any leader.
“They were not our people. They were not listening to any leader. They did not belong to any platform. They were furious with police for naming people wrongly in the initial FIRs regarding the August 27 incident,” Tikait had then said.
Over 60 people had died in the riots and thousands were left homeless. Six rape cases were also registered in connection with the riots. Tikait had then claimed that the ‘Jats’ were falsely accused of rape and demanded a fresh probe.
A similar modus operandi is in works in the recent incident of violence during the tractor rally on Republic Day. Here, too, Tikait had employed the familiar defence of disavowing the protesters after the protests led by him have turned violent. Tikait, evidently, is among those leaders who want to remain in public glare but does not want to own responsibility of the repercussions their actions might invite.
A video of Tikait asking protesters to carry sticks, flags during the tractor rally has gone viral on the internet. But ss the tractor rally carried out by protesters devolved into chaos and disarray, with protesters resorting to violence and vandalism, Tikait refused to shoulder the responsibility of the violence and pushed the blame on the Centre and the Delhi Police for the Republic Day disruption.
Rakesh Tikait, the politician
In 2004, Tikait floated a political wing of BKU, Bahujan Kisan Dal. While Tikait himself did not contest these elections, his party did, but did not win a single seat. In 2007 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, BKD forged an alliance with Congress where Tikait contested from Khatauli seat. He did not win these elections. He then joined the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) in 2009, which was then an NDA alliance partner. However, the alliance fell through and RLD joined the UPA.
In 2014 and contested the general elections from Amroha. This was seen as a move to please the Jat community after the Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013. He again was unsuccessful in winning.
Today, the ‘liberals’ are hailing Tikait as the next big thing to happen to Indian politics where they conveniently forget the Muzaffarnagar communal riots. In fact, all provocative speeches, all instigation to violence is forgiven if you stand against Modi.