UP turns battleground as admin bars Opposition leaders
Battle lines were drawn between the Uttar Pradesh government and Opposition parties on Monday after the administration stopped several politicians from reaching Lakhimpur Kheri, where eight people died and 10 were injured in violence a day before.
Hours after news broke of the clashes on Sunday evening, several Opposition leaders attempted to make their way from Delhi and Lucknow to Tikunia village, roughly 70 km from Lakhimpur district headquarters. But barring some farm leaders and Bhim Army chief Chandrasekhar Azad, most were stopped by the police, citing prohibitory orders in the district.
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, Rashtriya Lok Dal president Jayant Chaudhary and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Satish Chandra Mishra were all stopped at various points on Sunday night and Monday.
Separately, the state government refused to allow the flights of Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel and Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhjinder SIngh Randhawa to land in Lucknow, triggering criticism by Opposition politicians.
“The BJP government is doing the politics of crushing the farmers and finishing them,” Priyanka Gandhi Vadra tweeted.
Opposition politicians blamed the BJP and Union minister of state for home, Ajay Mishra, who owned the car that allegedly ran over four farmers. Farmers alleged that Mishra’s son Ashish Mishra was in the car, but the minister denied the charges, and said farmers torched three cars and thrashed other people to death, including two BJP workers and their driver. A local journalist was also killed in the violence.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra landed at Lucknow late Sunday evening, and attempted to head to Lakhimpur Kheri with a large contingent of party workers but was detained at her Lucknow residence. Late at night, she broke the police cordon and walked out, boarded her car and proceeded towards Lakhimpur Kheri.
Police stopped her at several spots, and finally detained at Hariya in Sitapur district near Lakhimpur Kheri around 2am on Monday. She was sent to Provincial Armed Constabulary guest house in Sitapur but the leader later alleged that police manhandled and shoved her and Congress leader Deepinder Hooda.
“I tried to walk but they were pushing and shoving. They also pushed and shoved Deepender Hooda, and manhandled him. As I was trying to stop them from hitting my colleagues, they manhandled me. They tried to force me into their jeep, but I told them there was no legal basis,” she told HT.
Police denied the charges.
Congress workers sat vigil outside the guest house she was detained in and shot videos that showed her sweeping the floor of the room with a broom.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted in Hindi, “Priyanka, I know that you will not retreat. They fear your courage. We will ensure that the country’s ‘annadatas’ win this non-violent fight for justice.” The Congress also staged protests in the national capital.
Satish Chandra Mishra made an abortive attempt to leave his house around 8 pm on Sunday but was quickly stopped by police. Aam Aadmi Party MP and UP in-charge Sanjay Singh, too, made a bid around midnight but was detained in Sitapur at around 1 am.
“This is very sad and condemnable,” BSP chief Mayawati tweeted.
Around midnight, police began barricading Lucknow’s Vikramaditya Marg that houses Yadav’s residence and the Samajwadi Party headquarters. Trucks were seen parked across the road and left after a large posse of policemen were deployed in the area.
Yadav made an attempt to drive off at around 8 am on Monday, but was stopped. Soon afterwards, some unidentified people set a police jeep on fire. The police held SP workers responsible but the party blamed the police for the fire.
Around 10am, a large crowd of SP workers with party flags gathered in the area. Yadav, along with SP national general secretary Ramgopal Yadav, sat on the road outside his residence and shouted anti-government slogans. Within 30 minutes, police detained him. He was released around 5pm.
“Vehicles are being run over those who raise their voices. We want the arrest of the minister and his son in the Lakhimpur incident,” Yadav told reporters.
Chandrashekhar Azad, who did not have a convoy, managed to sneak into Lakhimpur Kheri and reached the spot by dawn.“It is a sad moment for the farmers of the country. The killing of these farmers shows that the government has crossed all limits,” he said.
SP and Congress leaders protested in almost all the districts across the state. The RLD protested largely in the western UP districts. Around two dozen RLD leaders, including its state president Masood Ahmad, were detained on the outskirts of Lucknow.
Randhawa, who took the road route to Lakhimpur Kheri from Punjab, was detained by UP police immediately on entering Saharanpur. Earlier in the day, he was denied permission by the UP government to reach Lucknow by air.
UP cabinet minister Sidharth Nath Singh blamed the Opposition for politicising the event. “We are taking the matter seriously and it is under investigation. CM has said the culprits will be punished. The Opposition is using the incident for political tourism and political competition as polls are around the corner,” he said in a statement.