Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said on Tuesday it was “no big deal” that he was baton-charged and pushed to the ground by the police in Uttar Pradesh last week, when he tried to visit the village of the 19-year-old Dalit woman who was gangraped and murdered in Hathras district, NDTV reported. Gandhi is on a three-day tractor rally in Punjab to drum up support against the government’s new farm laws.

“The entire country is being pushed to the corner and being beaten up,” Gandhi told reporters. “What’s the big deal if I was pushed. It’s our job to protect the country, we have to stand with the farmers. The government is such that if we stand against them, we will be pushed. Dhakka kha lenge, lathi kha lenge [we will bear the push and the batons].”

Gandhi told a reporter that he went to Hathras so that the family of the woman does not feel alone. “I am here for all the women who have faced sexual violence,” he said. Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi visited the woman’s family on October 3, four days after she died at a hospital in Delhi. They had been stopped from travelling to Hathras two days prior, and escorted back to New Delhi.

On September 14, four upper-caste Thakur men had tortured and raped the Dalit woman, who died on September 29. She had suffered multiple fractures and other serious injuries, and was left paralysed during the incident. The four men have been arrested.

After she died, the woman’s body was hastily cremated by the police against her family’s consent while they were locked in their home. This has led to massive outrage and protests across the country.

Farms laws

Rahul Gandhi also claimed at the press conference at Circuit House in Patiala that the Narendra Modi-led government has “destroyed the entire food security system” with its new farm laws, The Indian Express reported. He said that in contrast, the Congress manifesto for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections aimed at developing the agricultural system and improving its infrastructure.

On Monday, Gandhi had claimed that finishing Modi was “farmers and labourers” with the three farms laws just as he had “destroyed” small shopkeepers with demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax.

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Monday said that Gandhi has the right to put forth his views, but he won’t be allowed into the state if he “comes with a big procession”. Security has been beefed up in Haryana’s Sirsa, where farmers have gathered in large numbers anticipating the former Congress president’s visit. Congress’s “Kheti Bachao Yatra” rally will reach Punjab on Tuesday, and a number of party workers have gathered at the Punjab-Haryana border.

Gandhi, who is on a three-day visit to Punjab and Haryana, launched a tractor rally on Sunday in support of protesting farmers.

Gandhi, at a rally in Sangur on Monday, questioned the Centre’s decision to introduce the laws hurriedly. “Why did the government feel the need to introduce the laws in the times of crisis?” Gandhi asked. “The government introduced the laws because it knew that if it destroyed the livelihoods of the farmers and labourers now, they would not be able to come out on the streets [to protest].”

The Congress leader added that the new farm laws will make farmers helpless. “The Modi government wants to make the farmer and labourer helpless,” he said. “They will be forced to become slaves to the industrialists.”

The three ordinances – Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation) Ordinance 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment & Protection) Assurance and Farm Service Ordinance 2020 and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance 2020 – passed on June 5, were converted into law by the Parliament in the third week on September, amid vehement protests.

The legislations loosen regulations on the sale, pricing and storage of agricultural produce. They allow farmers to sell outside mandis notified by the Agricultural Produce Market Committee. They enable contract farming through deals with private sector companies. They take food items like cereals and pulses off the list of essential commodities, lifting stock limits on such produce.