New Delhi: Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi and the party’s general secretary in-charge of Uttar Pradesh Priyanka Gandhi have been arrested by Uttar Pradesh police while on their way, on foot, to Hathras on Thursday.
The two were accompanied by other Youth Congress leaders as they attempted to make their way towards Boolgarhi, the village in Hathras where a 19-year-old Dalit woman was gangraped, and who later succumbed to her grave injuries.
The Gandhis, who were held after a round of lathicharge on them and other party workers, were brought back to New Delhi amidst tight security.
The two have been held under Section 188 of IPC (pertaining to disobedience of an order by a public servant).
After being escorted back to Delhi by UP police, Priyanka tweeted to say that the Adityanath government is “oppressive“. She said that Congress leaders were forcefully stopped from visiting the victim’s family at Boolgarhi in Hathras, and even the media has been barred from entering the village.
She alleged that the district magistrate of Hathras has also threatened the victim’s family to remain silent.
The Gandhis’ convoy was first stopped at Greater Noida by Uttar Pradesh police at a toll gate, following which all of them decided to walk the 142-kilometres to Boolgarhi.
However, a few kilometres into the march, some police officials stopped Priyanka and Rahul again. The Congress claimed that when the duo asserted that they would continue with their march, they were manhandled.
Pictures from the ground show police officials pushing the duo back.
A few Congress workers who are accompanying the duo told The Wire that both Priyanka and Rahul were resolute in their wish to reach Boolgarhi.
UP Congress has now decided that all its district units will now stage dharnas across the state against forceful detention of Priyanka and Rahul. Meanwhile, Pradesh Congress Committees held protests in their respective states against UP government’s alleged insensitive treatment meted out to the victim’s family and forcible stopping of Rahul and Priyanka’s convoy to Boolgarhi.
The police in UP’s Gautam Buddh Nagar said that it had lodged an FIR against Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and around 200 other party workers under The Epidemic Diseases Act for not maintaining social distancing and not wearing face masks.
The FIR was lodged under IPC sections 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 269 (unlawfully or negligently spreading infection of any disease dangerous to life), 270 (malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) and under section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, the police said.
Rising in rage against unabated atrocities against India’s daughters in UP & demanding the release of our leaders Shri @RahulGandhi & Smt @priyankagandhi, who have been detained for fighting for #JusticeForIndiasDaughters, protests were held by workers & leaders of @INCOdisha. pic.twitter.com/P6A0EMUN1J
— Congress (@INCIndia) October 1, 2020
आज @RahulGandhi जी, @priyankagandhi जी और कांग्रेस कार्यकर्ताओं के साथ हाथरस जाते वक्त यूपी सरकार के इशारे पर हुई बर्बरतापूर्ण कार्रवाई के खिलाफ @INCMumbai कार्यकर्ताओं ने प्रदर्शन किया।#JusticeForIndiasDaughters pic.twitter.com/kCOJWop2T4
— Congress (@INCIndia) October 1, 2020
आज राहुल गांधी जी, प्रियंका गांधी जी और कांग्रेस कार्यकर्ताओं के साथ हाथरस की बेटी के परिजनों के आंसू पोंछने जाते वक्त यूपी सरकार द्वारा की गई गिरफ्तारी के खिलाफ @INCChhattisgarh ने प्रदेशाध्यक्ष @MohanMarkamPCC जी के नेतृत्व में कैंडल मार्च निकाला।#JusticeForIndiasDaughters pic.twitter.com/BcwDkntmn3
— Congress (@INCIndia) October 1, 2020
The Congress, along with other opposition parties, have been protesting across the country against the alleged mishandling by the Adityanath-led BJP state government of the cremation process following the passing of the victim. The brutal gangrape of the teenager in which she had her tongue cut off and spine entirely broken shot to greater limelight when her family members alleged that the Hathras district administration locked them up, and cremated her dead body in the dead of the night without their consent. They said the officials did not even allow them to see the teenager’s corpse even once.
On Wednesday, 13 Youth Congress leaders, who were protesting outside the assembly in Lucknow, were lathicharged, then detained and sent to prison. Similar police action against party workers was reported from various districts of UP and in Delhi, where Youth Congress leader Amrita Dhawan and some others were dragged during a protest into a bus that was detaining protestors.
The highhanded behaviour was widely reported by the media on Wednesday. Since then, protests have been organised across the country, with the Congress leading them in many parts. The gangrape case has since then become emblematic of structural caste hierarchy and its exploitative functioning in the state.
While Priyanka, as the state in-charge, has been leading the charge against the Adityanath government, the top Congress leadership has also thrown its hat in the ring.
Congress president asks for Adityanath’s resignation
Last night, Congress president Sonia Gandhi issued an emotional statement to say that the UP administration did not accord any dignity to even the dead body of the brutalised teenager.
“There was an attempt to hush up the matter. The girl was not given timely treatment and a daughter is no longer among us. I want to say that Hathras’ Nirbhaya has not died, she has been killed — by a ruthless government, by its administration and by the UP government’s ignorance,” she said, adding that she was “cremated like an orphan”.
“When she was alive, she was not heard, she was not protected, and after her death she was deprived of her home. She was not handed over to her family and a crying mother was not even given the chance to bid goodbye to her daughter. This is a big sin,” Sonia said.
“What kind of justice is this? What kind of a government is this? You think that you can do anything and the country will just keep looking? No, the country will speak out against your injustice,” the Congress president added, accusing the UP government of complicity in depriving the woman basic human right.
“You have no moral right to continue as Chief Minister,” she tweeted, demanding the resignation of Adityanath.
दुख की घड़ी में अपनों को अकेला नहीं छोड़ा जाता।
UP में जंगलराज का ये आलम है कि शोक में डूबे एक परिवार से मिलना भी सरकार को डरा देता है।
इतना मत डरो, मुख्यमंत्री महोदय!
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) October 1, 2020
On Thursday morning, Priyanka responded to the UP government’s explanation that the victim’s father has signed a letter in which he has urged political parties to stop their protests as he was satisfied with the administration’s action.
Priyanka posted a video clip of his father in which he is seen as saying that the district magistrate and administrative machinery put pressure on him to sign the said letter. He is also seen as claiming that his family has been asked to not speak to journalists, and that their mobility has been restricted by officials. At the end of the video, he said that he wanted a CBI inquiry as he was not satisfied with UP police’s work.
“Is the government using threats to silence the family?” Priyanka asked.
हाथरस की बेटी के पिता का बयान सुनिए।
उन्हें जबरदस्ती ले जाया गया। सीएम से वीसी के नाम पर बस दबाव डाला गया। वो जांच की कार्रवाई से संतुष्ट नहीं हैं।
अभी पूरे परिवार को नजरबंद रखा है। बात करने पर मना है।
क्या धमकाकर उन्हें चुप कराना चाहती है सरकार?
अन्याय पर अन्याय हो रहा है। pic.twitter.com/6lIW1hdvDc
— Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (@priyankagandhi) October 1, 2020
Congress spokespersons have already started asking why their party leaders are not being allowed to visit the victim’s family. While the BJP has justified the use of police action, claiming that it was necessary as the Congress duo is only trying to politicise the brutal incident of sexual violence, other opposition parties have also attacked the UP government for violently restricting peaceful protests.
The events which have unfolded since Wednesday are likely to snowball in the days to come as various opposition parties and large sections of civil society have planned multiple protests against alleged UP government’s display of impunity and insensitivity in the Hathras rape case.
Note: The story has been updated to include details about the FIR lodged against Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.