Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi on Thursday paid a surprise visit to Mirchpur village in Hisar district of Haryana where two people were burnt alive in an arson attack on Dalit houses last week.
He visited the house of a Dalit family that was set afire, killing a 70-year-old man and his 18-year-old physically challenged daughter in the April 21 attack. Fifteen houses were damaged in the arson attack, allegedly by members of the predominant community in the village.
The All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary's visit was unscheduled as no leader of the state party unit, the Youth Congress or district police and administration officials were present in the village. He was accompanied by senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan.
However, naib tehsildar (revenue official) Dheeraj Chahal was present in the village to distribute wheat to some villagers.
"I had come to the village in connection with my government duty. I was surprised to see Rahul Gandhi in the village. He went to the villagers' houses and talked to them," said Chahal.
Rahul Gandhi spent nearly 45 minutes with the affected Dalit families and listened to their woes.
"We did not have even a hint of Rahul Gandhi's visit to Mirchpur village. It was a surprise visit and it seems that he wanted to spend some time alone with the victim families," said Phool Chand Mullana, Haryana Congress president, talking to reporters in Hisar on Thursday.
Sources in Mirchpur village said the Dalit families voiced their fears to the young leader and requested him to help in rehabilitating them in some other area.
"We were all very surprised and could not believe for sometime that Rahul Gandhi was actually sitting among us. He has promised the victims' families of all possible assistance, and said that he would also apprise Congress president Sonia Gandhi about the circumstances prevailing in the village," said a village source.
An aide in New Delhi said the Congress leader "shared the grief of the affected families and spent some time with them".
Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda had visited Mirchpur village April 27 and announced compensation of Rs 10 lakh each and employment to a family member of the two people killed in the arson attack.
Hooda also assured the victims' families that strict action would be taken against the accused. He had announced financial assistance of Rs 25,000 and free treatment to the injured.