Mirzapur (Uttar Pradesh): Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi remained in detention here on Friday as she refused to fill the bail bond, eight hours after she was driven to a guest house after she insisted on proceeding to Sonebhadra district in Uttar Pradesh where 10 people were killed in clashes over a land dispute on Wednesday.
She also described the killings of the members of the Gond tribe as “massacre”.
Speaking to the media, Priyanka said, “One hour ago the administration came to me and showed a piece of paper in which it was written that I was detained under Section 107 and others. I was told to give a bail bond of Rs 50,000.
“I told them that in Sonebhadra, tribals’ lands were being snatched and 10 people have been killed and many others are in hospital. This is a massacre. And I have come here to meet the families of the victims. Is meeting the victims’ families a crime? Meeting the aggrieved families is the duty of a political leader and not a crime.”
Priyanka was detained at the Chunar Guest House here after she was stopped from going to Murtiya village in Sonebhadra district. The police denied that she had been arrested.
The Congress leader arrived in Varanasi on Friday morning and met the injured persons admitted to the Trauma Centre of the Banaras Hindu University. When she proceeded towards Sonebhadra, her convoy was stopped on the Mirzapur border.
A defiant Priyanka then squatted on the ground with the Congress workers and was later taken away in a government vehicle to Chunar.
“I have not done anything wrong and so I will not fill the bail bond. District administration and the government is free to send me to jail if they want,” she said.
She further said that she just wanted to meet the victims’ families. “I am clear that I will meet them,” she said.
Asked about Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanth’s allegations that the Congress was the reason behind the killiings in Sonebhadra, Priyanka said, “Whose government is here? Tell me. It is the BJP and the Yogi Adityanath. It is not the (Jawaharlal) Nehru government here. It is the BJP government which is answerable for the kind of lawlessness prevailing in the state.”
Priyanka said till the time Adityanath does not realises his responsibilities and take proper steps, the Congress will keep on protesting.
To a question over the administration cutting off elecricity and water supply to the guest house where she has been detained since the afternoon, the Congress leader said, “I don’t want any kind of facilities here. The government took no action when the villagers were complaining three days before the Sonebhadra incident. Why make arrangements now?”
Earlier in the day, she asked the officials for written orders as to why she was being prevented from going to Sonebhadra. “I just want to meet the families of the victims. I am willing to take only four people with me because I do not want to defy the prohibitory orders and yet the district administration is not allowing us,” she complained.
At least 10 people, including three women, died and over 24 were injured in a clash between Gond and Gujjar communities over a land dispute in Sonebhadra on Wednesday. Gandhi also demanded Rs 25 lakh as compensation to each of the deceased person’s family.
Speaking to party supporters at the guest house, Gandhi said that atrocities were regularly being carried out on the tribals in the state.
“They were killed because they were demanding their rights, they were fighting for their land,” she said.
Priyanka added that three days before Wednesday’s incident, the villagers had informed the police about the brewing tension in the area.
The Congress leader said she wanted to meet the victims’ families to assure them that someone was standing with them in these difficult times. She said, “Massacre is happening here. And I was going there to show the entire country what happened in Sonebhadra.”
She later tweeted that the BJP government had failed to stop violence in the state and was instead curbing her rights to stand up for the victims.
Even while she remained under detention, scores of Congress workers and local people gathered at the guest house to meet Priyanka with whom she held discussions on several issues.
Earlier in the day, before being taken to Chunar, Priyanka said that she would not be cowed down by the police action which she argued had no legal basis. Soon after news came in that Priyanka has been whisked off to Chunar, Congress leaders staged a dharna at the Gandhi statue in Lucknow and outside the BJP headquarters in New Delhi.
A Samajwadi Party delegation, which was on its way to Sonebhadra, was also prevented from going there. A four-member Trinamool Congress team is set to go to Sonebhadra on Saturday.
Priyanka’s brother and senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi described her detention as “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 police have arrested 29 people, including the kingpin Yogesh Dutt, in connection with the violence in Sonebhadra. A case has been filed against 78 people.
Priyanka husband Robert Vadra also hit out at the state government over her detention. “In Uttar Pradesh is it a crime to stand with the poor? Can somebody tell me what is the crime of Priyanka,” Vadra asked in a Facebook post.