Updated: October 7, 2021 7:29:47 am
With the Uttar Pradesh Government granting permission to political parties to visit Lakhimpur Kheri, where eight people, including four farmers, were killed on Sunday, Congress leaders Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi, accompanied by the Chief Ministers of Punjab and Chhattisgarh and other party leaders, on Wednesday met some of the families of the victims.
Late Wednesday night, the Congress leaders visited the family of Lovepreet Singh, a 19-year-old farmer killed on Sunday, at their home in Palia tehsil of the district and offered condolences.
After spending about half an hour there, the Congress team left for Nighasan tehsil to meet the family of journalist Raman Kashyap, who was among the victims. Their last stop in the district is expected to be the home of Nachatar Singh, a 55-year-old farmer from Dhauraha tehsil who too was killed on Sunday.
On Thursday, the Congress leaders are expected to travel to Bahraich to meet the families of Gurvinder Singh, 18, Diljeet Singh, 35. The farmers were killed when three vehicles, including one owned by Union Minister of State Ajay Kumar Mishra, ploughed into a group of protesting farmers on Sunday.
Besides Rahul and Priyanka, Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel, Congress leaders Randeep Surjewala, Deepender Singh Hooda and K C Venugopal, and Congress UP unit chief Ajay Kumar Lallu were part of the Congress team that visited the family.
After meeting the Congress delegation, Lovepreet’s father Satnam Singh, a small-time farmer, told The Indian Express, “They spoke to us and expressed their condolences. They promised us that they will help us get justice. Justice will only happen if the minister resigns and his son is arrested. Several days have passed, but no arrests have been made despite videos showing what happened.”
On Wednesday afternoon, there was high drama at the Lucknow airport, with the Congress leaders insisting on traveling to Lakhimpur Kheri in their private vehicles while security personnel asked that they travel in the official government vehicle “to avoid traffic on the way”.
“Are you deciding how I will move? Just tell me the rule in this country where you can tell a citizen that you have to go through this route,” Rahul Gandhi told the police officers.
“They want us to go with them in their vehicle. I am a citizen of this country, I have come to Uttar Pradesh. First they say I can go, then they say that you have to go in the police vehicle. I just want to go to Lakhimpur Kheri. They think we are afraid of them but we are not,” Gandhi told media persons.
After over an hour of back and forth, during which Gandhi and the others sat in protest at the airport, around 3.30 pm, they finally left for Lakhimpur Kheri in their private vehicles.
Before leaving, both Channi and Baghel announced separate compensation of Rs 50 lakh for each of the four farmer families and the next of kin of the journalist who were killed on Sunday.
The Congress leaders made a midway stop at the PAC guesthouse in Sitapur district to pick up AICC General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who had been detained since Monday, before proceeding to Lakhimpur Kheri.
On the lifting of restrictions for political parties to visit Lakhimpur Kheri, ADG Law and Order, Prashant Kumar, said the government has no intention to restrict anyone’s movement but it was being done just to ensure peace in the region. Permission has now been granted under Section 144, which allows for only five persons at a time, he said.
Reacting to the Congress leaders’ visit to Lakhimpur Kheri, Uttar Pradesh Cabinet Minister Sidharth Nath Singh accused them of doing “nakaratmak (negative)” politics. “The government had taken certain measures keeping law and order in mind. There is no problem if you visit the families, but you can’t spoil the atmosphere there,” he said.
Earlier, addressing a press conference before leaving for Lucknow, Gandhi, flanked by Channi and Baghel, accused the government of keeping them out of Lakhimpur Kheri, and said they intend to put pressure “so that action is taken against those who killed the farmers”.
“We want to send out a message of hope to the farmers, that in this country, if a farmer is killed, the culprits cannot run away scot-free, even if it is the home minister’s son,” he said.
Accusing the UP government of stopping Congress leaders while allowing TMC leaders and Bhim Army’s Chandrasekhar to go to Lakhimpur Kheri, Gandhi said, “There used to be democracy here, but today there is dictatorship in India. Politicians cannot go to UP.”
He also accused the government of “systematically attacking” and provoking farmers, and took on Prime Minister Narendra Modi for skipping Lakhimpur Kheri during his Lucknow visit on Tuesday.
Earlier, denying information provided by the Lakhimpur Kheri police and Priyanka Gandhi herself that she was arrested on Tuesday, Sitapur SDM Sadar P L Maurya told The Indian Express, “She was held on preventive grounds and not arrested, as we told her that she is free to go anywhere but Lakhimpur Kheri. Now if the DM of Lakhimpur Kheri allows her, we can let her go to Lakhimpur Kheri,” he said.
Inputs by AVANEESH MISHRA
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