- Priyanka Gandhi sat on the road, protested until she was taken away
- "I only want to meet the affected families," she said
- 10 people were killed in shootout in Sonbhadra over land dispute
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was stopped in Uttar Pradesh on Friday on her way to a village in Sonbhadra where 10 people were killed in a shootout this week over a land dispute. The Congress general secretary sat on the road and protested until she was taken away in a government car to a guest house.
"If the government wants to put me in jail for the crime of meeting the victims, I am fully prepared for it," she tweeted late on Friday night from the guest house where she was taken by the police.
Priyanka Gandhi, the Congress in-charge of eastern UP, was seen in visuals sitting on a road in Mirzapur near Sonbhadra, surrounded by her security and Congress workers. "I only want to meet the affected families, whose members have been mercilessly shot dead. A boy of my son's age was shot at and is lying in hospital. Tell me on what legal basis I have been stopped," Priyanka Gandhi told NDTV.
She had landed this morning at Varanasi, the constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, where she went to a hospital to see those wounded in the Sonbhadra massacre.
Later, as she headed for Sonbhadra 80 km away, reports emerged that gatherings had been banned at the district. "I am sitting peacefully, can someone please show me the order," she said at the spot where her convoy was stopped.
As she was being taken away in a government official's vehicle, she said: "I don't know where they are taking me, we are ready to go anywhere."
A police officer, Awadhesh Pandey, confirmed that "Priyanka-ji" had been taken into custody.
Her brother Rahul Gandhi called her "detention" disturbing. "The illegal arrest of Priyanka in Sonbhadra, UP, is disturbing. This arbitrary application of power, to prevent her from meeting families of the 10 Adivasi farmers brutally gunned down for refusing to vacate their own land, reveals the BJP government's increasing insecurity in UP," he tweeted.
The illegal arrest of Priyanka in Sonbhadra, UP, is disturbing. This arbitrary application of power, to prevent her from meeting families of the 10 Adivasi farmers brutally gunned down for refusing to vacate their own land, reveals the BJP Govt's increasing insecurity in UP. pic.twitter.com/D1rty8KJVq— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) July 19, 2019
Priyanka Gandhi's husband Robert Vadra called the detention "a complete abuse of law in every respect."
"Does this government wants to suppress every voice that sides the truth? The state government should immediately release her and let democracy be a democracy and not a dictatorship," he wrote in a Facebook post.
Ten people were killed and over 24 injured on Wednesday when a village chief, Yagya Dutt, and his associates, fired on a group of tribal farmers who had refused to give up 36 acres of land they had tilled for generations. Witnesses said Yagya Dutt had brought nearly 200 men on 32 tractor trolleys to seize the land. The men fired at the tribals for over half-an-hour in one of the most chilling incidents the country has seen in recent times.
Till now, 24 people have been arrested for the mass murder. A total of 78 people have been charged, including Yagya Dutt and his brother.
The day the incident took place, Priyanka Gandhi had tweeted: "In the BJP ruled state, the confidence of criminals is so high that broad day-light killings are continuously happening. The killing of 9 Gond tribesmen, including 3 women, by the land mafia in Umbha village of Sonbhadra is heart-wrenching. Administration and Chief Minister are all sleeping. Is this how the state will become crime-free?"
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Friday hit out at the Congress. "The Congress governments in the past have provided protection to land mafias and the Sonbhadra incident is an example of that," he said.
Priyanka Gandhi's decision to visit Sonbhadra was seen to indicate that she planned to keep an intense focus on UP in the run-up to state polls in 2022.
This is the 47-year-old leader's second visit to UP since the national election, in which the Congress could manage just one of 80 seats despite a high-profile campaign by the Gandhi siblings.