Congress MP Rahul Gandhi along with Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi and his Chhattisgarh counterpart Bhupesh Baghel were on their way to Lakhimpur Kheri district on Wednesday afternoon, PTI reported.
Earlier during the day, the Uttar Pradesh government had said that Gandhi, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and three other party leaders have been given permission to visit the district.
Eight people, including four farmers, had died in Lakhimpur Kheri on October 3 during a protest against the Centre’s new agricultural laws. Since then the state administration had barred several Opposition leaders from visiting the families of the deceased farmers.
Before leaving for Lakhimpur Kheri, Rahul Gandhi had alleged that the police was not allowing him to leave Lucknow airport despite the permission from the state government, ANI reported. In a video, he could be seen asking for permission to leave the airport but security officials keep blocking his way.
“What kind of permission has the Uttar Pradesh government given?” Rahul Gandhi asked reporters. “They are not allowing me to leave the airport.”
The Congress MP also told reporters that the Uttar Pradesh Police was not allowing him to go to Lakhimpur Kheri in his personal vehicle, ANI reported.
“We want to go in our car but they [police] want to take us in their vehicle,” Gandhi said. “I asked them to let me go in my personal vehicle. They are planning something, [so] I am sitting here.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Gandhi flew to Lucknow from Delhi with Baghel and Channi. Both Channi and Baghel announced Rs 50 lakh compensation for the families of the deceased farmers and a journalist who was also killed during the violence, ANI reported.
There were no reports yet on the other two Congress leaders who have been granted permission to visit Lakhimpur Kheri. However, Congress MLA Sachin Pilot was on his way to Uttar Pradesh’s Sitapur district on Wednesday afternoon, PTI reported. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, is currently in a guest house in Sitapur. On Tuesday, she was arrested for attempting go to Lakhimpur Kheri.
Awanish Kumar Awasthi, the additional chief secretary of Uttar Pradesh’s home department said that leaders of all political parties will now be allowed to visit the district. However, they will be allowed in groups of five persons due to restrictions under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, PTI reported.
The Uttar Pradesh government’s decision to allow political leaders to visit Lakhimpur Kheri came hours after they had denied permission to a Congress delegation led by Rahul Gandhi.
The Congress MP held a press conference after being denied permission and criticised the Centre and the Uttar Pradesh government for the handling of the matter.
“Farmers are being mowed down by a jeep, they’re being murdered, the name of a Union minister and his son is coming up in this incident,” Gandhi said in his press conference. “Yesterday [on Tuesday], the prime minister visited Lucknow, but he didn’t visit Lakhimpur Kheri. It’s a systematic attack on farmers.”
Farmer bodies had alleged that three farmers died after a vehicle that was part of a convoy of Union minister Ajay Mishra had run over protestors agitating against the agriculture laws. They had claimed that the vehicle belonged to Ashish Mishra, the minister’s son.
On Tuesday, Rahul Gandhi said that there “dictatorship” was prevailing in India, NDTV reported. “Politicians cannot visit the state; we have been told since yesterday that we can’t go,” he added. “The Chhattisgarh chief minister was not allowed to go. Why? Because there is a great loot going on.”
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel was stopped from leaving the Lucknow airport on Tuesday. He staged a two-hour-long sit-in protest at the airport, reported The Indian Express.
Gandhi also referred to the Hathras gangrape case from September 2020, and remarked that a new form of politics is being practised in Uttar Pradesh.
“Criminals can do whatever they want, be it rape or the murder of farmers,” he said. “Those who commit murders and rapes are outside jail, while those who raise their voices are going inside jails.”
Robert Vadra on Priyanka Gandhi’s arrest
Meanwhile, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s husband and businessman Robert Vadra on Wednesday said that he has been stopped from going to Lucknow.
“I am really worried for her and I had packed my bag to go to Lucknow now, when I was informed that I won’t be allowed to step out of the airport,” Robert Vadra said in a Facebook post. “This is totally shocking that as a husband I can’t even go and support my wife. Thankfully, she has a huge support of the masses.”
Vadra said he was “shocked beyond belief” by the manner in which his wife was arrested under Section 151 (arrest to prevent the commission of cognisable offences) of the Indian Penal Code .
“I spoke with her yesterday and she informed me that she has not been served with any order or notice,” he said. “She has not been produced before a judicial officer and has not been allowed to meet her legal counsel.”
Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday said that such misbehaviour makes no difference to their family. “You can lock us up, beat us up, or even bury us, it makes no difference,” he said. “Our family has got training in it for many years.”
On Tuesday, the police had filed a first information report against 11 people, including Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Congress leader Deepender Singh Hooda and party’s state chief Ajay Kumar Lallu.
Vadra was earlier barred from leaving Lucknow and placed under a house arrest. However, the Congress leader started walking from Lucknow and later got into her car. Videos showed her confronting police officers for attempting to take her into custody without a warrant.
The Congress leader had alleged that she was pushed and roughed up while being detained.
Lakhimpur Kheri violence a ‘well-planned conspiracy’ by Union minister, his son, says FIR
On Sunday, hundreds of farmers from across the Terai region had gathered at Tikunia area of Lakhimpur Kheri district as Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya was scheduled to arrive there by helicopter to attend an event nearby. They had assembled to protest Maurya’s arrival since he belongs to Bharatiya Janata Party.
Farmers told Scroll.in that the protestors came to an understanding with the district authorities later in the day that Maurya would not land there and instead come by road, taking an alternative route.
But, the protestors alleged that as they were wrapping up their protest, three large SUVs came charging through the main road.
A video showing an SUV running over a group of protestors was also shared by the Congress and several social media users on Tuesday.
The police have not yet verified the authenticity of the video. Scroll.in could not verify the video independently. However, the locale that can be seen in the video looks similar to visuals that had emerged after Sunday’s incident.