The Uttar Pradesh Police on Tuesday stopped Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi from entering Meerut city to meet the families of people killed in protests against the amendments to the Citizenship Act, PTI reported. Out of the 24 people killed across the country, 17 of them are from the northern state.

“We asked the police to show us order, but they did not show us any order for stopping us and told us to return,” Rahul Gandhi told the media. The two leaders, who had left for Meerut on Tuesday morning, had stopped near Partapur police station. At least five people were killed during the protests in Meerut alone.

However, Senior Superintendent of Police in Meerut Ajay Sahni said that the two politicians were informed about the prohibitory orders imposed in the city. “As Priyanka Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi were about to enter Meerut, they were informed that Section 144 is still in force,” he told The New Indian Express. “Also, the Congress leaders didn’t have any prior permission, they decided to return to Delhi.” Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code prohibits the gathering of more than four persons.

The district magistrate was also reportedly present when the Gandhis were stopped from entering Meerut. On Sunday, Priyanka Gandhi had visited the families of the victims in Bijnor district.

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Following the episode, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh criticised the Uttar Pradesh government. “Strongly condemn the Uttar Pradesh government’s decision to stop Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi from travelling into Meerut to meet the families of the victims of the Citizenship Amendment Act protests,” the chief minister tweeted. “What India needs at this moment is a healing touch and not such curbs against Opposition parties.”

The chief minister also released a statement and said that such an “extreme reaction” from the state government showed “vindictive politics against a particular community” which was against the foundation of the country’s constitutional ethos, according to PTI. “Protest is the democratic right of every Indian citizen but the Uttar Pradesh government has been acting in a draconian manner to crack the whip on protesting citizens as if they were terrorists or gangsters,” he added.