Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala on Thursday quoted freedom fighter Lala Lajpat Rai to criticise the Uttar Pradesh Police for stopping Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra from going to Hathras to meet the family of the 20-year-old woman, whose brutal gangrape and death have triggered anger across the country.
The two Congress leaders were detained as they began walking along the highway between Delhi and Uttar Pradesh after their vehicles were stopped. Photos and videos on social media showed Gandhi falling down during an altercation with a police officer, who pushed and shoved him. Gandhi also alleged that the police batoncharged him. The two politicians were later released and escorted back to Delhi.
Surjewala shared a video of the police clashing with Gandhi and other Congress members. “Lala Lajpat Rai had said that every stick on my body would prove to be the last nail in the coffin of the British Raj,” he said. “The baton charge on Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi’s convoy will also prove to be the last nail in the coffin of the Yogi government.”
The Congress, meanwhile, said it won’t be intimidated by the arrests. “The Congress did not get scared by the sticks and bullets of the British,” the party tweeted. “If you think you will scare them with arrest, then this is the arrogance of the BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party]. “That arrogance will be broken and because this fight is for the truth.”
Several other political leaders criticised the UP Police for the way it treated the two Congress leaders. Karnataka Congress President DK Shivakumar said Gandhi had been fighting to get justice for the woman. “I condemn the assault by UP Police on our leader Rahul Gandhi who is fighting to get justice for Hathras rape victim,” he tweeted. “Under what law has he been detained? Why are he and Priyanka Gandhi not being allowed to meet victim’s family? Why is the PM [Prime Minister Narendra Modi] not speaking about ‘Beti Bachao’ now?”
Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram also criticised the UP Police in a series of tweets. “UP police is a law into itself,” he said. “None of the laws of the country seem to apply to it. What is wrong if the leaders of a political party protest against a gruesome crime and wish to visit the victim’s family?”
Chidambaram added: “The two leaders were not violent, they did not carry arms, they were lodging a peaceful protest. Why should the police stop them from protesting peacefully?”
Congress General Secretary KC Venugopal also lashed out at the police and the UP government. “How cowardly can the BJP, UP CM [chief minister] and the PM himself be to oversee an assault on an MP and a strong voice of justice in India Shri Rahul Gandhi ji?” Venugopal asked. “Pushing him to the ground as he marches for our daughters’ safety and security is a clear reflection of BJP’s disregard for India’s voice.”
Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar criticised the UP Police for its “reckless” behaviour towards Gandhi. “It is reprehensible for those who are supposed to uphold the law to trample upon the democratic values in such a manner,” he tweeted.
Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav also spoke out against the detention of the two Congress leaders. “It is duty and the democratic right of the Opposition parties to protest against every indiscriminate misuse of power by the oppressive regime!” he said. “Voice and will of the people cannot be silenced or suppressed! We unequivocally condemn the arrest of Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi.”
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam President MK Stalin, meanwhile, said that Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath must apologise for the treatment meted out to Gandhi, PTI reported.
The Hathras case
Two weeks ago, the Dalit woman was tortured and raped by four upper caste men. The woman died on Tuesday at the Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi. She had suffered multiple fractures and other serious injuries when the four accused raped her in her village on September 14. The four men have been arrested. However, the woman was hastily cremated, which led to outrage in political circles.
The incident has triggered nationwide outrage against sexual violence that women face, and has foregrounded the deteriorating law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh. Several politicians called the hasty cremation an abuse of human rights. They have also questioned the exploitative caste hierarchy in the state under Adityanath’s rule.
The Uttar Pradesh Police on Thursday claimed that the woman’s forensic lab report showed that she was not raped.