Rahul Gandhi left his Tughlaq Lane residence for Bhatta-Parsaul with just three people. By evening, thousands had gathered.
The surging crowd created panic in the camps of the Provincial Armed Constabulary. The jawans informed their bosses, who tried to persuade Gandhi to leave but to no avail.
“I have some demands. Get the authorities to meet them. I will leave,” he told the officials.
Gandhi’s visit was a pleasant surprise for villagers. For the first time since Saturday’s clash with the police, they came out of their houses. Beating the 40°C temperature, even those who had fled Parsaul fearing police action began returning and joined Gandhi’s chaupal.
Farmers from Aligarh, Agra, Mathura, Bulandshahar and Ghaziabad began pouring in, as did some Congress leaders from western UP and NCR.
“They (politicians) never actually wanted to come to us. Rahul chose an unconventional way of reaching out,” said villagers, adding that all other politicians informed the media and police before they set out and courted arrest for publicity.
Gandhi visited the houses of Rajpal and Hari Om, two farmers killed in Saturday’s police firing. He also met Aarti, whose husband and son have been missing since the clashes and Jagveeri, whose son has been missing.
Later in the evening, a flurry of activity greeted the Congress MP’s decision to spend the night in the village.
His team got down to making the necessary arrangements and the villagers chipped in. A cook was brought from Greater Noida; flour was sourced from mill-owner Malik; and poori-aloo subji was decided for dinner. Cots too were arranged.
At 9 pm, Gandhi returned from the agitation site in Bhatta. Local officials refused to disclose the exact location where Gandhi would stay.