Senior Congress leader Jitin Prasada, placed in preventive custody by the Uttar Pradesh police today for the party's planned protest march, asserted that the government's move was "not the end, but the beginning". Senior party leader Priyanka Gandhi is "very firm on this case", he told NDTV.
The 180-km protest march from Shahjahanpur to Lucknow was meant to show support for the young law student who accused BJP leader Chinmayanand of rape. Mr Prasada, who was to lead the march, was taken in preventive custody along with 80 other workers this morning.
The law student was arrested last week on allegations of extortion and is in jail. Chinmayanand, meanwhile, though under arrest, has been admitted in hospital. Priyanka Gandhi has alleged that the entire administration has been "protecting" the former Union Minister.
The footmarch was "public knowledge", Mr Prasada told NDTV. But last night, officials from the district administration came and cancelled it. The borders of the Shahjahanpur district were blocked, his party said on its official Twitter handle.
"All our leaders are rounded up and I'm under house arrest... all supporters are held back... Sushmita Dev has been detained. Why does the BJP government think this yatra will become a law and order issue?" he questioned. "This move by the government is unacceptable... The government is trying to silence the people's voice here," Mr Prasada said.
In a later tweet, he said: "UP is no Kashmir yet today I am in preventive custody for simply wanting to highlight the plight of the Shahjahanpur rape victim. This BJP govt has no qualms in quashing an individual's fundamental rights".
Tweeting under the hashtag #BjpBhagaoBetiBachao, the Congress said, "The BJP govt in UP has detained Congress leaders for taking out a peaceful march of protest against BJP leader & rape accused, Chinmayanand. Why is the BJP govt so determined to protect such a criminal? #BjpBhagaoBetiBachao".
The 23-year-old student has accused Chinmayananad of sexually exploiting her for a year. The 73-year-old former Union Minister has been charged under a law that deals with rape but a sub-section has been applied in his case, which deals with "misusing authority for sexual intercourse".
The young woman has been charged with trying to extort Rs. 5 crore from Chinmayanand. The Special Investigation Team looking into the case said she had "confessed" to the crime.
"The UP BJP government wants to suppress the voice seeking justice for the daughter of Shahjahanpur. The padyatra is being stopped. Our workers and leaders are being arrested. What is there to be afraid of?" Priyanka Gandhi tweeted in Hindi today.