A WAR of words erupted between the Congress and Uttar Pradesh government on Saturday as party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who was in Lucknow to participate in the Congress foundation day function, claimed she was roughed up by police in a bid to stop her from meeting the family of a retired IPS officer who was arrested on December 19 during protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
Priyanka walked some distance and later rode pillion with a party leader on scooter to reach the home of S R Darapuri. While she said she was grabbed by the neck and fell down, police denied this.
चाहे गला दबाओ या धक्का मारो
आवाज़ कभी न होगी कम।
कान खोल कर सुन लो हुकूमत
हम डटे रहेंगे, चाहे जितना कर ले सितम।
— Congress (@INCIndia) December 28, 2019
The Congress lodged an official complaint on the “breach” in the security of the party leader, and against Hazratganj Circle Officer Abhay Mishra and other police personnel over their “misconduct”. The party also wrote a letter to the CRPF IG, Delhi.
Around 5 pm, soon after Priyanka had left the state party headquarters for Darapuri’s residence, Deputy SP Archana Singh intercepted her cavalcade and asked her to go back citing security reasons and orders from higher-ups.
A heated argument followed, after which the Congress general secretary got off her vehicle and started walking, accompanied by party leaders. She was on foot for quite a distance, with the woman officer constantly asking her to go back, before getting onto the scooter.
Priyanka returned to the party office late in the evening after meeting Darapuri’s family.
Speaking to the media about the incident, Priyanka said, “There is no reason to stop me midway on the road… They do not have the right to stop me. If they want to arrest me, they should do so… I got off the vehicle and started walking. I was surrounded and a woman cop held me by my throat. Another woman cop pushed me and I fell down.”
She added, “I was determined (to go). I am standing with every citizen who has faced police oppression. This is my ‘satyagraha’.”
In a statement issued in Lucknow, the Congress said, “Police cars came in speed and blocked the car of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. Priyankaji’s car had a close shave. Then police tried to stop her and called more police force.”
In Delhi, AICC general secretary K C Venugopal accused the Uttar Pradesh government of disrupting the party’s foundation programme in Lucknow by denying police permission. Addressing a press conference, Congress leader Sushmita Dev said there was “complete goonda raj” in Uttar Pradesh and demanded President’s Rule.
In a written complaint to the CRPF, which is in-charge of Priyanka’s security, her aide Sandeep Singh said police, led by Circle Officer Mishra, had entered the premises where she was staying in Lucknow without prior permission. Singh wrote, “He (Mishra) demanded information on the protectee’s schedule which had already been provided yesterday. He then accused the CRPF personnel of withholding information… He further threatened the CRPF personnel that he ‘will not provide any security cover’ to the protectee and will not ‘allow’ the protectee ‘to take even two steps out of the premises’.”
In its response, Lucknow SSP Kalanidhi Naithan denied the claims being made on social media as “totally false”, and said Deputy SP Archana Singh had fulfilled her duties with “full dedication”. In a letter addressed to the Additional Superintendent of Police (Protocol), Singh repeated the same, while adding that Priyanka had deviated from the route she was scheduled to take, and she had only stopped the Congress leader to find out where she was going from security point of view. “However, party workers refused to share any information.”
Uttar Pradesh government spokesperson Shalabh Mani Tripathi accused Priyanka of “trying to make the woman police official a scapegoat for her politics”. “The woman police official discharged her duty today despite the death of one of her family members.”
Earlier in the day, in her speech at the Uttar Pradesh Congress office, Priyanka said the country was in danger, and those in government now represented forces which the party had always fought. Calling laws like CAA and the NRC against the Constitution, she said Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists etc had all participated in the freedom struggle.
“Pichale dinon kis tarah ki arajaka faili hai. Har shahr mein, desh ke kone-kone mein naujawan awaz utha rahe hain. Sarkar daman aur bhay dwara un awazon ko band karna chahti hai (In the past few days, we have seen such anarchy. In every city, corner of the country, youngsters are raising their voice. The government is trying to stop these voices through suppression and fear),” Priyanka said.
She added that whenever there was such a crisis in the country, the Congress rose to face the challenge. Urging party workers to follow the ideology of “non-violence”, she said a Congress leader knows no fear, and wondered why other opposition parties were not protesting.
Priyanka also criticised remarks by a police officer in Meerut, caught on video, saying that those raising slogans should go to Pakistan. “The BJP has spread such communal venom in institutions that today officers do not even care about the oath of the Constitution,” she said.
-with pti inputs