Congress General Secretary for eastern Uttar Pradesh Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was on Friday detained on her way to Sonbhadra district where 10 people from the Gond community were killed in a shootout on Wednesday over a land dispute, ANI reported. She was detained at Narayanpur police station and reportedly taken to a guest house after she sat on a dharna.
The administration has imposed prohibitory orders in Sonbhadra under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, The Hindu reported.
Vadra was taken into preventive custody, according to The Indian Express. Vadra and Congress workers demanded that they be shown the order under which she was stopped. Vadra’s brother and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said her “illegal arrest” was disturbing.
“This arbitrary application of power, to prevent her from meeting families of the 10 Adivasi farmers brutally gunned down for refusing to vacate their own land, reveals the BJP government’s increasing insecurity in UP,” Rahul Gandhi tweeted.
An unidentified police official told PTI that Vadra and other members of the Congress were pacified after some time before being taken to the guest house. However, the Congress claimed that Vadra had been taken into police custody.
Senior Congress leader and MLA Ajay Rai claimed that Vadra, who was stopped on the Varanasi-Mirzapur border, was taken into “police custody along with other Congress leaders and workers”.
“I want to peacefully meet the family members of the victims who had fallen to the bullets in the clash,” PTI quoted Vadra as saying. “I want to see the orders under which I have been stopped to meet them. A boy of my son’s age was shot at and is lying in hospital. Tell me on what legal basis I am stopped here? I can move ahead only with four people. I want to meet the victims.”
Vadra and her supporters continued to sit on a dharna at the Chunar guest house into the evening, ANI reported. Congress workers alleged that the government had deliberately cut power to the guest house. “They want to trouble Priyanka Gandhi and Congress workers so that we leave the place,” they said. “But we will spend the night here with candles and continue our protest.”
Meanwhile, Vadra’s husband Robert Vadra called his wife’s “arrest” “unconstitutional”. “This is a complete abuse of law in every respect,” he said in a Facebook post. “Is it a crime to visit the family of the deceased? Does this government wants to suppress every voice that sides the truth?”
He also called upon the Adityanath government in the state to “let democracy be democracy, not turn it into a dictatorship”.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra earlier visited the injured people in the Banaras Hindu University Trauma Centre. Eighteen people were injured in the incident on Wednesday. Some of them were admitted to a hospital in Varanasi and the others at a health facility in Sonbhadra district.
According to the police, the shootout took place when Ubha village head Yagya Dutt went to take possession of the land that he had purchased two years ago. Villagers gathered at the spot and started to protest. Dutt and his supporters allegedly opened fire on the victims.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Adityanath said the government had suspended four officials in connection with the incident. “A three-person committee has been constituted to investigate the matter from 1955 till now and give a report to government in 10 days,” he was quoted as saying by ANI. He added: “Twenty nine criminals arrested till now, a single barrel gun, three double barrel guns and a rifle seized. Whoever is found responsible for this incident, strictest action will be taken against them.”
On Wednesday, Vadra had criticised the state government for the law-and-order situation in the country. She had said that the confidence of criminals was so high in BJP-ruled states that killings in broad day-light happen continuously.