Congress leaders were on Monday detained and denied permission by the Uttar Pradesh administration to hold a protest march in support of the 23-year-old law student who accused Bharatiya Janata Party leader Chinmayanand of raping and physically exploiting her, NDTV reported.

The leaders wanted to march from the town of Shahjahanpur to Lucknow to demand justice for the woman, who is currently in judicial custody in connection with an extortion case filed by Chinmayanand.

Congress leader Jitin Prasada has been put under house arrest and three others have been detained. “Congress today wanted to hold a march to highlight the plight of the Shahjahnpur rape victim but the local administration is not allowing it,” he told ANI. “Tell me how is it a violation of law?”

Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra condemned the police action. “The criminals in UP have the protection of the government so they can intimidate the rape victim,” she wrote on Twitter. “The UP BJP government wants to suppress the voice seeking justice for daughter of Shahjahanpur. The padyatra is being stopped. Our workers and leaders are being arrested.” She asked why the government is afraid of the protest march.

The Congress called the protest march “Nyay Yatra” and alleged that the BJP government was helping Chinmayanand in “every possible way”. “The BJP govt in UP has detained Congress leaders for taking out a peaceful march of protest against BJP leader and rape accused, Chinmayanand,” the Congress said in a tweet. “Why is the BJP govt so determined to protect such a criminal?”

It added that district borders in Shahjahanpur have been blocked from all sides by the state police.

All India Mahila Congress President Sushmita Dev called Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath a “coward”. In a tweet she said: “Uttar Pradesh model of governance is simple –
impose S[ection] 144 to crush anyone raising their voice...Nyay Yatra would have exposed the UP governments cover up in the Chinmayanand case so the 144.”

Deputy leader of the Congress Legislative Party in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly, Aradhana Mishra, said the government has slapped extortion charges on the woman and arrested her to weaken the case and support Chinmayanand.

The case

The BJP leader was sent to judicial custody for 14 days on September 20. He has been charged with watered down sexual assault charges but not with rape. While a rape charge carries a term of seven years extending to life, Section 376C of the Indian Penal Code – sexual intercourse by a person in authority – comes with a punishment of five to 10 years. He has also been charged with stalking, wrongful confinement, and criminal intimidation.

Last month, the 23-year-old complainant went missing soon after posting a video detailing her ordeal. Although she did not name anyone, her father named Chinmayanand in a missing-person complaint. On August 27, the police booked Chinmayanand on kidnapping charges. The woman was found in Rajasthan on August 30, and was produced in the Supreme Court. Last week, she claimed that she possessed about 35 videos that would implicate Chinmayanand.

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