Congress leader Rahul Gandhi turned the land acquisition heat back on the Uttar Pradesh government on Monday evening, accusing the Mayawati government and its police of raping women and killing protestors demanding compensation for land acquired for the Yamuna Expressway, connecting Greater Noida and Agra.
The allegations were denied by the Bahujan Samaj Party government in Uttar Pradesh. Gandhi also took the fight straight to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, meeting him along with a delegation of affected farmers.
The Congress general secretary was detained by the Uttar Pradesh Police last week after he had avoided security and sneaked into the affected area, setting off a political chain reaction of accusations and counter-accusations.
Gandhi alleged that huge heaps of ash from burnt bodies were found in the villages and claimed to have proof of the atrocities committed by the state government and police force.
"Quite severe atrocities are taking place there. There is a set of 74 large heaps of ashes with dead bodies inside. Everybody in the village knows it," he told presspersons after meeting the PM.
"I am very concerned with what is going on in these villages in Noida. Severe atrocities took place. People were killed and women raped. Is this how we should treat our own people?" he asked.
"The situation is pretty bad."
To drive home his point, Gandhi distributed photographs which claimed to be of burnt bodies, destroyed properties and injured people of Bhatta-Parsaul village, the epicentre of the protests against the UP government.
Gandhi also showed the PM pictures of the "nature and spectrum of atrocities".
The ongoing farmers' agitation has given the Congress a fresh issue to attack UP CM and BSP supremo Mayawati with.
The stir has also thrown open a window of opportunity for the Congress to strengthen its position in Uttar Pradesh, which goes to polls in 2012. Out of power since 1989, the party is desperately seeking to regain its lost ground in the country's most populous and fourth-largest state in terms of area. UP sends the highest number of MPs - 80 - to the 543-member Lok Sabha.
Gandhi said his party remained committed to the passage of the controversial land acquisition bill in Parliament.
"It is a complicated piece of legislation. We are confident that the bill will be passed in the next session of Parliament," he said.
In Lucknow, the state government spokesperson said that instead of indulging in this blame-game, Gandhi should help push the land acquisition act in Parliament.
The BSP also accused the Congress of resorting to a "drama" after losing ground in Uttar Pradesh.
"The Congress has been spreading rumours and is resorting to cheap politics," the spokesperson added.
With inputs from HTC, Lucknow