Opposition steps up attack: Rahul Gandhi heads to Lakhimpur today, TMC gets in as ‘tourists’

The Congress tweeted that Rahul Gandhi will lead a five-member delegation to Lakhimpur Kheri Wednesday. AICC general secretary K C Venugopal has written to Adityanath, saying that they be allowed, the party said.

THE Yogi Adityanath government Tuesday continued its measures to stop Opposition leaders from reaching Lakhimpur Kheri, where four farmers were killed by a car belonging to Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra. Congress leader and Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel held a two-hour dharna at Lucknow airport after he was stopped from leaving the premises. A delegation of TMC MPs, though, managed to make its way to Lakhimpur Kheri, claiming to have “dodged” police posing as tourists.

While Congress general secretary and UP in-charge Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, booked under Section 151 of the CrPC (to prevent commission of cognizable offence), is still detained, late on Monday night, an FIR was registered against Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav for “violation of Section 144 (on unlawful assembly)”.

The Congress tweeted that Rahul Gandhi will lead a five-member delegation to Lakhimpur Kheri Wednesday. AICC general secretary K C Venugopal has written to Adityanath, saying that they be allowed, the party said.

Baghel, whose aircraft was not allowed to land at Lucknow airport on Monday, managed to reach Tuesday, but was stopped by police from getting out of the airport. ” I am not going to Lakhimpur where prohibitory orders are in place. I am only going to the Uttar Pradesh Congress office,” Baghel said, adding he also wanted to meet Vadra, held in Sitapur.

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Interacting with reporters virtually from the airport, Baghel, appointed by the Congress as an observer for the state polls, said, “The truth of Lakhimpur will come to light one day… Those who speak in a language warning the farmers to mend their ways (said in a speech by Union minister Ajay Mishra) will have to be dismissed, and his son, who trampled the farmers, will have to go behind bars.”

Asked about the Lakhimpur incident finding no mention in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech at an event in Lucknow Tuesday, Baghel said: “They (the BJP) have been anti-farmer and will not utter a single word for them.”

Vadra questioned the legality of her “confinement”, saying she had only been informed verbally at 4.30 am Monday that she was being put under arrest. She said she had received “no further communication regarding the circumstances or the reasons”, neither had the UP Police or administration informed her of “the Sections under which I have been charged” or shown her the FIR till 6:30 pm Tuesday.

She said she saw a “portion of a paper on social media in which they have named 11 people — 8 of whom were not even present at the time I was arrested”. “In fact they have even named the two persons who brought my clothes from Lucknow on 4th afternoon. I have not been produced in front of a magistrate or any other judicial officer either. I have also not been allowed to meet my legal counsel who has been standing at the gate since morning,” Vadra said.

She said when she was detained in Sitapur, there was no Section 144 to her knowledge in the district. “I was, in any case, travelling in a single vehicle with four other persons, two local Congress workers, Mr Deepender Hooda and Mr Sandeep Singh,” she said.

Congress leader P Chidambaram said that the facts and circumstances of Vadra’s detention “conclusively establish that there is no rule of law in UP”. “She has been in detention for more than 30 hours. She has not been produced before a Judicial Magistrate… Her constitutional rights under Articles 19 and 21 have been grossly violated.”

Former BJP MP Savitri Bai Phule, who has left the party, tweeted pictures of her being forced into a police vehicle to stop her from going to Lakhimpur Kheri.

AAP Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh was also put under arrest under Section 151 after being kept at a guest house for over 30 hours. He said he would still go to Lakhimpur and meet the family members of the victims whenever he could.

NCP chief Sharad Pawar compared the violence in Lakhimpur Kheri to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. Pawar, a former Union agriculture minister, said: “Whether it is the government at the Centre or in Uttar Pradesh, they are not sensitive. The kind of situation created in Jallianwala Bagh, we are witnessing a similar situation in UP.”

During a meeting with Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Delhi, Punjab CM Charanjit Singh Channi, who could not visit Lakhimpur Kheri Monday, requested that all detained Congress leaders be released and allowed to go to the site. Channi said he also urged the Home Minister to repeal the farm laws.

Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, who was part of the TMC delegation to Lakhimpur Kheri, called what had happened “calculated and pre-planned murder”. “(If the) son of a minister can run over people with such impunity, then where will the common man go? Why hasn’t the Prime Minister come here?” she said.

The MP, accompanied by fellow party parliamentarians Sushmita Dev, Abir Ranjan Biswas, Pratima Mondal and Dola Sen, added: “Mamata Banerjee had led the biggest farmer andolan in Singur. We haven’t come all the way here to joke around. There will be ‘khela’ here too. If the government here thinks that they are the only ones on the maidan (field), they are mistaken.”

Sen said they had been trying to reach Lakhimpur Kheri ever since Sunday.

While Dastidar and Sushmita Dev went to Palia tehsil of the district to meet the kin of Lavpreet Singh (19), others travelled to Dhaurahra tehsil to meet relatives of Nachatar Singh.

CPM Rajya Sabha MP Elamaram Kareem wrote to Modi saying the “entire nation has been shocked” by the killing of the farmers. He demanded that Union MoS Mishra be sacked, “for his direct responsibility in the barbaric atrocity”.

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