The dust road running alongside Yamuna Expressway was lined with anxious crowds. Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi took his time, greeting and shaking hands with everyone — ice cream vendors, tongawalas, children and labourers.
At designated spots on the way, he addressed gatherings, with people watching even from rooftops. By the evening on Wednesday, over a thousand people had joined his procession.
At village Sabota, he exhorted the residents to mount pressure on the state government over its “wrong policies”. At Alawalpur, the villagers gathered to talk about their experiences during acquisition of land in the area.
“We received lathis and bullets when we protested,” said a villager.
On the first day of his padyatra, Gandhi had walked 33 km. On Day 2, he covered around 20 km, touching five villages on the way — Rampur, Sabota, Alawalpur, Maraiyah, Burawah.
Around mid-morning, Gandhi halted at the home of farmer Ramveer Sharma in Alawalpur. He had breakfast and lunch with the family, and a half-hour nap in a small room on the first floor of the house.
Later, addressing the villagers at an impromptu chaupal (gathering) under a neem tree, Gandhi termed acquisition of land the “biggest theft” in the state.
“When we mounted pressure, the ruling government pretended to bring out a new policy for land acquisition... Surprisingly, it is not applicable in places where theft is being carried out,” he said.
In the evening, the state deployed personnel of the Provincial Armed Constabulary at the village, raising speculations that action might be taken against Gandhi.
Gandhi will also go to Tappal, the village in Aligarh where the party will hold a “kisan mahapanchayat’ in Aligarh on July 9.
In Aligarh, senior superintendent of police Satyendra Vir Singh said: “His padyatra will violate the orders.”
The Congress, he said, has secured permission for the mahapanchayat, but has not sought any permission for the padyatra.
Gandhi reached Aligarh district around 6.30pm and stopped for the night at the home of Harendra Singh, a Congressman at Siarol village.
With inputs from PTI