LUCKNOW: Lashing out at the Yogi Adityanath government, Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Tuesday said the Lakhimpur Kheri incident is not an isolated one and charged that the Uttar Pradesh government's reaction to people raising their voice has been consistently that of violence and suppression.
The Congress leader also hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is on a visit to Lucknow for an event, and asked why is he is not going to Lakhimpur Kheri, which is just a 15-minute helicopter ride from here, to wipe the tears of families whose sons have been "brutally murdered".
Gandhi was detained on Monday in Sitapur while on her way to Lakhimpur where eight people were killed in violence on Sunday.
Four of the dead were farmers allegedly knocked down by vehicles driven by BJP workers travelling to welcome Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya.
The others included BJP workers and their driver were allegedly pulled out of the vehicles and then lynched by the protesters.
The UP government on Monday lodged a case against Union minister Ajay Mishra's son and promised a probe by a retired high court judge.
When asked how she saw the Lakhimpur incident, Gandhi in a telephonic interview to PTI, said, "I see it as a part of a bigger picture of what is happening in the state and the nation because it is not an isolated incident in the sense that the government's reaction to protests, to people raising their voices has consistently been that of violence and oppression".
She charged, "This is an extreme situation that has arisen due to the consistent oppression that has been going on. So when anybody in Uttar Pradesh tries to protest, whether it is the students or teachers, they are beaten, oppressed and sent to jail".
"There are violent reactions towards people who raise their voices either in protest or simply to demand their rights," she charged.
Gandhi also charged that the focus of the Uttar Pradesh government has been propaganda and public relations instead of welfare of people.
On her future course of protest over the violence, Gandhi said, "The farmers are still demanding the resignation of the minister and arrest of the accused."
"I would like to understand that when government can arrest opposition leaders without an FIR or an order for their arrest, for the crime of trying to visit the victim's families, then why can't they arrest the accused who ran over the farmers and committed murder in full public view? It is clear that something is very wrong. I want to meet the families of the victims," she insisted.
"But it's really not a question of what's happening to me, the main issue here is that when a horrendous crime has taken place why has the government not take any action? Why is it that the BJP Government is pushed into action only due to political pressure? Why is there no due process of law?," she said.
"Why are media channels reinforcing to me that a minister, the father of the accused has stated that this (incident) has not happened at all? Why are we told to listen to the father of the accused who is a history sheeter himself and had threatened those very people just a few days back? Why are we not listening to journalists who were present there, to the families of the victims and the eye witnesses present at the time?" she said.
Condemning all kinds of violence, she said, "For that matter even if BJP workers were killed there, it is wrong, they should not have been, any kind of violence visited upon anyone is wrong. We should speak up for justice for everybody".
Asked about PM's visit to Lucknow on Tuesday and if she wanted to say anything to him, she said, "I would like to remind the prime minister that the freedom he is here to celebrate was given to us by the very farmers whose descendants have been protesting for months on end."
"It is these very farmer's sons who stand at the borders of our nation protecting our freedom even today. As he sits on stage with his retinue of ministers I want to ask him why one of them, the father of the accused has not been sacked yet?", she said.
"Why is UP's entire police force focussing on putting opposition leaders under arrest, placing the families of the murdered farmers under watch, cutting of the internet and sealing the district of Lakhimpur Kheri?," she added.
Police have registered a murder case against Ashish Mishra, the son of Union Minister of State for Home, and several others over the death of the farmers.
The minister, who is from the area, has denied allegations by the farmers' unions that his son was in one of the cars.
Lashing out at the state government over its handling of the pandemic, she charged, "You must have seen even during the pandemic, the government turned against the people."
The Congress leader said, "It (government) became an aggressor rather than being a supporter, a facilitator and helping the public during the national crisis. Because the focus of the government is to do its PR and propaganda to enable itself to remain in power and it isn't actually to uphold democratic values and ensure the security and safety of people."
On the law and order in the state, Gandhi said, "I am amazed when I see these massive posters all over bus stands and hoardings in Delhi stating that UP is number one in law and order. Working here I see a completely different picture. I actually see a complete collapse of law and order, a collapse of governance where horrendously violent incidents take place."
On the BJP's allegation that she visits Uttar Pradesh for political tourism, Gandhi said, "I want to ask them when a prime minister travels all around the world getting photo-ops with presidents, why is he is not called a tourist?"
"When I come here and I visit the family of a rape victim or visit families of those who were shot during NRC/CAA (protests) or families of farmers who have been run over by a minister's son then I become a tourist. So, this is purely their propaganda, it is an attempt to paint me as a non-serious politician. I am sorry to tell them that they are not going to succeed because I am extremely serious about my job and my duty."
The party on Tuesday shared a video clip purportedly showing an SUV mowing down farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri and asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi why no action has been taken against the accused.
The authenticity of the video has not yet been verified.
While Rahul Gandhi shared the purported footage on Facebook, Priyanka Gandhi as well as AAP leader Sanjay Singh posted the video on Twitter.
"Modi ji, you are coming to Lucknow to celebrate the Amrit Mahotsav of independence, but have you seen this video. This video shows how the son of a minister in your government has mowed down farmers. Please see this video and tell the country why this minister has not yet been dismissed and this boy not yet arrested," Priyanka Gandhi asked two days after eight people were killed during a farmers' protest in Uttar Pradesh's Lakhimpur Kheri district.
The Congress general secretary asked the prime minister, in Lucknow on Tuesday to inaugurate a programme of the 'Azadi ka Amrut Mahotsav' celebrations, to visit Lakhimpur Kheri and give justice to the farmers.
While four of the dead in Sunday's incident were farmers, allegedly knocked down by vehicles driven by BJP workers travelling to welcome Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya, the others were BJP workers and their driver who were allegedly lynched.
On Monday, police registered a murder case against Ashish Mishra, the son of Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra, and several others over the death of the farmers.
Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi said the country's Constitution was in danger.
Humanity is also in danger if people do not get disturbed by seeing the video, he said.
"If a Minister's son mows down agitating farmers under his car, then the country's Constitution is in danger. If he not taken into custody even after the appearance of this video, then the country's Constitution is in danger. If a woman leader is kept in custody for 30 hours without an FIR, then the country's constitution is in danger," he said in a Facebook post.
Priyanka Gandhi, who was detained in Sitapur on her way to Lakhimpur Kheri, said it was the farmers who got freedom for the country and their sons sitting on the border are protecting India now.
"You have arrested leaders like me without any FIR or order, I want to know why is this man still free," she asked Modi in her tweet.
"I urge you to come to Lakhimpur and listen to the pain of the annadata and those who got freedom and are the soul of India. It is your duty and that of the Constitution to protect them," she said.
Addressing Modi, the Congress leader added that his government had kept her in custody for the last 28 hours without any order and FIR.
Priyanka Gandhi also asked why opposition leaders like her have been detained without any FIR or order and why the accused are moving around freely and not been arrested.
Sanjay Singh echoed her on the microblogging site.
What more proof is required after sharing the purported video, he said.
Ajay Mishra and his son Ashish have demanded a judicial probe into the violence.
The minister has denied his son's presence at the crime scene and cited an alibi that he was at a local school where a wrestling match was underway on Sunday.
Karnataka Congress chief DK Shivakumar on Tuesday said that no person has been arrested so far in connection with the incident and alleged that Uttar Pradesh Police arrested Priyanka Gandhi Vadra for consoling the family of deceased farmers.
Shivakumar said that Congress is following Mahatma Gandhi's way of protest.
"The lesson that Gandhiji taught us is to fight on the path of non-violence... We are following the Gandhiji way of protest," said Shivakumar.
Shivakumar, who is on his Dakshina Kannada tour while talking to reporters outside Mangaluru airport, said that no one has been arrested till now in the Lakhimpur Kheri case and that it is their political duty to console with the family members of the deceased farmers.
"Union minister's son kills four people by running over a car on protesting farmers... Whoever caused this has not been arrested, the minister has not resigned, is it a government?" said Shivakumar.
"Our leader Priyanka Gandhi has been arrested by the Uttar Pradesh police for consoling the family of the dead farmers. It is a political duty to console," he added.
Congress leader Deepender Singh Hooda on Tuesday claimed that he has been under detention for the last 24 hours in Uttar Pradesh's Sitapur.
"Today after 24 hours have passed, we are still in custody like criminals for the second day, and those who crushed the farmers are free. The land of Lakhimpur was turned red with the blood of farmers, but every drop of this blood will write the story of the coming revolution. Police Line Sitapur, from police custody," Hooda tweeted.
Meanwhile, Congress supporters continue to protest outside the PAC guest house in Sitapur where the party leader is allegedly detained.
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel on Tuesday claimed that a drone has been seen outside the PAC guest house in Sitapur where Priyanka has been detained.
"Whose drone is seen hovering over the Priyanka Gandhi's room where she has been kept in custody for over 30 hours," the Chhattisgarh CM tweeted in Hindi with a video of drone seen hovering over a building.
(With ANI Inputs)
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