VARANASI: A three-member TMC delegation spent a day at the Varanasi airport on Saturday after being stopped by Uttar Pradesh police from going to the Sonbhadra village where 10 people were gunned down over a land dispute.
At the airport, they met Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who was returning to New Delhi from Mirzapur after ending her standoff with the Uttar Pradesh government.
Gandhi had stayed overnight at a guesthouse in Mirzapur after she, too, was not allowed to visit Ghorawal village in Sonbhadra district.
On Saturday, she met families of some of the victims at the guesthouse.
The TMC parliamentary delegation, led by Derek O'Brien and comprising Sunil Mondal and Abir Ranjan Biswas, first protested inside the airport, but later sat on the floor outside after they were detained and stopped from visiting the village, where prohibitory orders under Section 144 have been imposed.
O'Brien provided updates on the TMC protest through the day on his Twitter handle. He also posted a video of his interaction with Gandhi at the airport. In the evening, he said the 'dharna' was over.
"Oppn MPs efforts to meet, build confidence & comfort grieving families of tribals killed over land rights was not allowed by UP govt #SonbhadraMassacre Now, as Trinamool MPs delegation conclude dharna, UP CM Ajay Bisht (Adiytanath) condescends to visit grieving families tomo," he tweeted.
Police confirmed the dharna at the airport was over. In one of his tweets, O'Brien said the delegation met the families and some of the injured at the BHU Trauma Centre.
The doctor there told the delegation he has never seen a "mass murder" like this , O'Brien said. He said the TMC delegation wanted to visit the area to give "confidence" to the villagers.
"It is a most unfortunate incident of innocent Dalits, tribals, adivasis being killed in the shootout. It is the murder of democracy," he added.
The TMC decision to meet those injured and their families in the clash assumes significance amid an intensified political bickering and violence between the TMC and the BJP since the Lok Sabha election in which the saffron party made significant inroads in West Bengal.
The BJP emerged as the main opponent of the ruling TMC in West Bengal after it won 18 of the 42 seats in the state in the 2019 general election, up from two it won in 2014 polls.
UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and his West Bengal counterpart and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee had attacked each other during the election campaign in the eastern state.
"The BJP indulges in hooliganism and disrupts 'good governance' every day in Bengal. The same BJP in UP don't allow a delegation of Opposition MPs to even meet, build confidence & comfort grieving families of tribals massacred over land rights," O'Brien said.
He said the UP government officials did not tell him under which rule the delegation was stopped from visiting the village.
He suggested the officials told the delegation, "(Doing as told from topmost) We have told them that we will cooperate, wish to meet injured & then proceed to Sonbhadra to meet & give confidence to grieving families (sic)," the TMC leader said.
Ten people were killed and 28 injured in the clash between supporters of village head Yagya Dutt and Gond tribals over a piece of land on Wednesday.
Dutt's supporters allegedly opened fire on the tribals resisting their attempt to take control of the disputed land. Twenty-nine people, including Dutt and his brother, have been arrested.