CITING the possibility of a breakdown in law and order, the Uttar Pradesh government stopped Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav at the Lucknow airport Tuesday from taking a flight to Prayagraj. He was invited by the Allahabad University’s students’ union for attending the varsity’s annual function and oath-taking ceremony of its office bearers.
“I was prevented from boarding the airplane without any written orders. Currently detained at Lucknow airport. It is clear how frightened the government is by the oath ceremony of a student leader. The BJP knows that youth of our great country will not tolerate this injustice anymore!” Akhilesh tweeted around noon. In a statement later, he said, “I haven’t been given a reason why, but it seems the general impression was that I would create a law and order problem.”
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, however, told reporters the government took the decision following a request from the university. “Allahabad University had already requested the administration in this matter. If Shri Akhilesh Yadav comes to the Allahabad University campus, the hostility between the student unions might increase and there could be a violent clash and it could lead to threat to law and order.” He further said given the huge gathering of 25-30 lakh at Kumbh, it could have been dangerous.
Several opposition leaders including Mayawati, N Chandrababu Naidu and Mamata Banerjee called the state government action undemocratic. Naidu condemned the “high-handed behaviour of Lucknow authorities” and said, “Another instance of BJP’s intolerance against its political opponents. Really democracy is in danger.”
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said she had already spoken to Akhilesh. “We all condemn the arrogant attitude of the so called BJP ‘leaders’ who didn’t allow Akhilesh to address the students. Even @jigneshmevani80 was not allowed. Where is the democracy in our country? And they are giving lessons to everybody!” she tweeted.
BSP chief Mayawati said the state action was “extremely condemnable”.
“This is anti-democratic and an example of total dictatorship of BJP government. Is the BJP government at the Centre and in Uttar Pradesh so afraid of the BSP-SP alliance that it is resorting to anti-democratic methods in order to curb our political activities. This is very unfortunate and this undemocratic step will be fought at all levels,” she said in another tweet.
In a letter written to Akhilesh’s presonal assistant, Prayagraj District Magistrate Suhas Lalinakere Yathiraj and SSP Nitin Tewari said Akhilesh’s programme should be postponed following a request by the university officials. The letter also said there was a possibility of breakdown of law and order if Akhilesh visits the university.
At a press conference later in the day, Akhilesh expressed disappointment over the students’ preparations at Allahabad University going waste. “Sarkaar ka mann saaf nahi raha, niyat saaf nahi rahi… (The desire of the government is not clean, the intention is not clean…) The freedom of speech to speak to people… the freedom to travel in flights, is being curbed by this government. This government is scared of the youth and they will teach them a lesson,” he said.
Protests were held by SP workers in Lucknow and Prayagraj. The police lathicharged SP workers after they tried to disperse the protesters. Badaun MLA Dharmendra Yadav was injured in lathicharge at the university.