Updated: July 26, 2021 3:56:55 am
Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) party president and Bihar minister Mukesh Sahani was stopped at the Varanasi airport on Sunday as he arrived for a press conference on the death anniversary of former dacoit-turned-Parliamentarian Phoolan Devi. It was alleged that he did not have permission to hold the press meet.
According to party officials and the local police, Sahani reached Varanasi from New Delhi by flight, but was not allowed to come out of the airport. He was sent back to Bihar by another flight.
Earlier, in an apparent bid to curry poll favour with the Nishad community, of which Phoolan Devi was a member, the VIP had announced that it will install statues of the late bandit-turned-leader in 18 districts of the state and observe her death anniversary every year, on July 25.
However, their plan hit a wall in Varanasi after police, on Friday, seized statues of the former Samajwadi Party (SP) MP following objection from locals to their installation in the Nishad-dominated Sujabad neighbourhood. Police said the VIP did not seek permission of the district administration and Varanasi Police Commissionerate for installing the statues or holding an event around the same.
The locals objected as the statues were allegedly kept on government land, next to a temple of Lord Shiva, in the Sujabad area.
The press conference eventually went ahead without the VIP chief, with his brother Santosh Sahani and party’s state president Chaudhary Lautan Ram Nishad filling in for him.
Nishad claimed the police, at the behest of the government, seized the statues by force and stopped the party from installing them. “Even in 2016, a statue was to be installed in Gorakhpur but the then SP government didn’t let it happen. As a result, the Nishad, Bind, Kashyap and Rayakwar communities went against the SP. The present government has also exposed its casteist mindset by stopping us from installing the statues. The Nishad community will make them pay for this in the Assembly election,” the party state president said.
The VIP supremo, who is the minister for animal husbandry and fisheries in the Bihar government, launched the party’s Uttar Pradesh unit earlier this month.
The party, in a statement, said the act of stopping them from installing statues of Phoolan Devi bared the BJP’s casteist face, and stopping Mukesh Sahani at the Babatpur Airport was an assault on democracy.
Speaking to The Indian Express, SP, Varanasi Rural, Amit Verma confirmed that the VIP chief was stopped at the airport as the Varanasi Commissionerate did not give the party permission to hold the press conference.
Sources said VIP supporters, after learning of the police action against their founder leader, erupted in protest and raised slogans in the Cantonment area and even engaged in a heated argument with uniformed personnel.
Phoolan Devi, who represented the community of boatmen and fisherfolk, was elected MP on a Samajwadi Party ticket from Mirzapur. She was assassinated in July, 2001. The party, which is a junior partner in the ruling alliance with the Janata Dal (United) and the Bharatiya Janata Party in Bihar, made known its intent to put her statues in select districts where the Nishads hold sway and can even tip the outcome of elections.
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