NEW DELHI: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday alleged that "dictatorship" and not democracy prevails in the country with farmers being "systematically attacked" and politicians not allowed to visit Uttar Pradesh to meet families hit by the violence in Lakhimpur Kheri.
Addressing a press conference, Gandhi said he along with two Congress Chief Ministers -- Bhupesh Baghel (Chhattisgarh) and Charanjit Singh Channi (Punjab) -- will visit Lakhimpur Kheri to meet the families hit by the violence.
After initially denying permission to Rahul Gandhi to visit Lakhimpur Kheri, the Uttar Pradesh government has now allowed him and Priyanka Gandhi and three others to visit the district.
He took a commercial flight to Lucknow along with the two chief ministers.
Gandhi charged, "There used to be democracy here, but there is a dictatorship in India now.
Politicians cannot go to Uttar Pradesh.
We are being told since yesterday that we cannot go to Uttar Pradesh"'.
Taking a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Gandhi said that on Tuesday the PM was in Lucknow but he could not go to Lakhimpur Kheri, where eight people have died in violence.
"For some time now, the farmers are being attacked by the government. Farmers are being mowed down by a jeep, they are being murdered, the name of a BJP home minister and his son is coming up, but no action is being taken," Gandhi said.
"The farmers of the country are being systematically attacked.
The first attack was to reverse the land acquisition bill, the second was bringing the three farm bills and today systematically what rightfully belongs to farmers is being snatched away," the former Congress chief alleged.
Asked about the detention of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and the treatment meted out to her, he said it is not about her but this is an issue about farmers.
"Be it Priyanka or me or anybody of our family, manhandling does not bother us. You can manhandle us, detain us, hit us or bury us, it does not bother us. This is part of our training of years given by our family. It will not bother us," he claimed.
Gandhi alleged that a new type of politics is being played in Uttar Pradesh where criminals are doing whatever they want and are roaming freely while those seeking justice for the victims are being arrested.
"What is happening in UP is that farmers are being killed.
But earlier too, in Hathras a girl was raped, earlier too their MLA was involved in a rape.
This is a new type of politics played out systematically in Uttar Pradesh, and criminals can do whatever they want, be it rapes, murder of farmers.
"Those who commit the crime and murders are outside the jail and those who die go inside the jail," Gandhi, flanked by chief minister Baghel and Channi, said.
"We want to go there and support the families.
Only we are being stopped, while others parties are being allowed to visit there.
What wrong have we done," he said, adding his goal is to meet those who have been killed and know the ground reality.
The opposition's work is to exert pressure on the government for taking action against the guilty and that is what we are trying to do, he said, adding that had they not put pressure and visited Hathras those who committed rape would have gone scot free.
He also alleged that the institutional structure of the country has been captured by the BJP/RSS and not just the media, all institutions in the country have been controlled.
The former Congress chief said a new narrative is being built, "but there is a limit to this narrative and sooner than later there will be an explosion, the size of which the people are not understanding."
He said we are trying to tell the government to let the democratic process work and "do not interfere with the democratic process because it is a safety valve. If you shut the safety valve other types of problems will come. We are pushing for maintaining the democratic process."
He also alleged that the postmortem of victims is not being done properly and systematically whatever one is saying is being shut.
We only want to give hope to the families of those who have been killed.
Responding to a question, Gandhi said the government doesn't realise the power of the farmers.
"It is a systematic attack on the farmers of this country.
It is arrogance because the government does not realise or understand the power of the farmers and they are provoking the farmers, they are insulting the farmers, they are killing the farmers.
This is a very dangerous and bad idea," he charged when asked about what he has to say about the prime minister's silence on the issue so far.
Gandhi alleged that a "dictatorship" was prevailing in the country as a "massive theft" was taking place.
When the Chhattisgarh chief minister goes to meet the farmers, he is told that section 144 in place and when he says he is alone and the section is not applicable, he is not given an answer, Gandhi said.
"There is dictatorship because there is massive theft taking place.
The small and medium businesses are being robbed, farmers are being robbed and the common people are also being robbed with rising petrol and diesel prices.
The voice of India is being crushed," he alleged.
Asked whether the opposition was getting together to take on the government after political leaders were stopped by the government from visiting Lakhimpur Kheri, he said, this is about the farmers and their issues and the alleged murder that has taken place in Uttar Pradesh.
"I do not wish to distract that."
"Opposition unity is a good thing and it should happen, but we will not be distracted and this is about farmers and those who have been killed," he said.
Four of the eight dead in Sunday's violence in Lakhimpur Kheri were farmers, allegedly knocked down by vehicles driven by BJP workers travelling to welcome Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya to an event.
The four other dead include BJP workers and a driver who were allegedly lynched by protesters.
The Uttar Pradesh Police has registered a case against Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra's son Ashish but no arrest has been made so far.