- Rahul Gandhi is accompanied by Congress' Ghulam Nabi Azad and Raj Babbar
- BJP condemned the move calling it "political tourism"
- UP's Saharanpur is tense after caste clashes earlier this week
Before heading home, Mr Gandhi addressed an impromptu press conference to announce that he was returning at the request of the district administration that promised to get back to him as soon as the situation improves. The attack on the BJP's state and central government started soon after.
"It is the duty of the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister to protect the weak, and he (Yogi Adityanath) should start doing this... (But) NDA government has spread fear among weaker sections all across country," he said. On the Modi government's completion of three years, the Congress leader attacked the Centre for failing to create the 2 crore that he had promised and the spike in the violence in Jammu and Kashmir that only helped Pakistan.
The state police had denied permission to Mr Gandhi, 46, to travel to the affected areas in Saharanpur this afternoon and declared that he would be stopped right at the border. He made it past the border, and met a Dalit delegation in the district. On Twitter, Mr Gandhi announced he had walked past the border and met some families affected in the caste clashes. The post was accompanied by two pictures; a young boy, Badal, whose family suffered in the violence, sitting on his lap as he listened to the grievances.
On Tuesday, a Dalit man was killed and several people were injured when a mob attacked supporters of Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati with swords and guns soon after she held a rally in Shabbirpur, the epicentre of clashes between Dalits and Thakurs or Rajputs since last month.
Before Ms Mayawati's rally, 12 homes in the village belonging to Rajputs had been set afire by unknown people and the mob attack was seen as retaliation. Groups of Dalits then attacked shops and markets.
The Yogi Adityanath government of the BJP in UP blamed Ms Mayawati's visit for the fresh round of violence; there have been four other incidents in the last one month that the home department says were part of a "well-planned conspiracy."
Shortly after the Mayawati visit, the state government had barred political leaders from travelling to the affected areas and promptly rejected Mr Gandhi's request too. Senior police officer Aditya Mishra told NDTV yesterday that political leaders will have to wait for a few days before they can plan visits to the district about 200 km from national capital Delhi.
The BJP called Mr Gandhi's visit "political tourism". Uttar Pradesh minister Sidharth Nath Singh said, "He wants photo opportunities. That is what he is known for. The administration will certainly not give him the permission."
When the senior district officers asked Mr Gandhi not to proceed any closer to the epicentre of the violence, Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad told him "we are law abiding people". But Mr Gandhi took offence to one police officer's remarks that suggested the police had done him a favour by not stopping him at the district's borders, just as they had announced. "Under which law... under which law would you have stopped me at the border," Mr Gandhi shot back, angrily, before relenting.