If the Uttar Pradesh government thought taking Rahul Gandhi into “protective custody” would be an adequate damage control measure, they were wrong.
The arrest — made on Wednesday evening — came too late. By then, the Congress general secretary had made his presence felt, lending a patient ear to the aggrieved villagers in Greater Noida.
By noon, farmers had begun turning up in droves — by midnight the area was flooded with people, nearly 200 of them affected local residents.
At Parsaul village, 4 km from Bhatta, at least 20 farmers, writhing in pain, came to meet Gandhi and show him their bruises, eliciting from him a stunned “Oh my god”.
Most of the injuries were on limbs and back, and fearing further atrocities, the victims had not dared to seek medical treatment. On Tuesday, the administration sent a medical team, who claimed they found no injured persons.
Graphic details were given of the police violence after two policemen died during Saturday’s clash. Wailing, elderly people spoke of the burnt houses, beatings and abuse they had faced over the weekend.
The farmers even alleged that the police killed several persons and burnt their bodies in the nearby heaps of cowdung cakes. Raking the ashes, they recovered what looked like human remains.
As Gandhi looked on, speechless, Congress leader Digvijaya Singh, who accompanied him, said he would send the samples for forensic tests. Over 150 farmers are said to be missing after Saturday’s clashes.
“On the day of violence, fire incidents were reported from over two dozen spots — 16 of them were cowdung heaps,” said Mahavir Singh, chief fire officer. “Seven motorcycles, five bicycles and the standing crop in the fields were gutted.”
“The police did not spare anyone, not even women and children,” said an elderly woman. “They wrecked our houses and brutally lathicharged us.”
“We were asking for what we are entitled to, we are not beggars,” one farmer said. “Now we won’t allow anyone to acquire an inch of land.”