Congress leader Rahul Gandhi during his address to the media at AICC headquarters in New Delhi, on 1 September 2021 | Photo: ThePrint
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi during his address to the media at AICC headquarters in New Delhi, on 1 September 2021 | Photo: ThePrint
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New Delhi: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is heading to Lakhimpur Kheri to meet the families of those who were mowed down last week by a convoy of cars, which allegedly included one owned by Ashish Mishra, son of Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay Mishra Teni.

Eight people, including four farmers, died in the clashes on 3 October, following violence after the convoy of three SUVs hit a group of protesting farmers.

Speaking at a press conference Wednesday, Gandhi said he will be heading to Lakhimpur Kheri along with two state chief ministers, so it won’t be a violation of Section 144. 

The law, which disallows the assembly of four or more people, has been imposed in the region.

On Tuesday, Congress leader and Rahul’s sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was arrested — after being held in custody for over 30 hours — while she was on her way to Lakhimpur Kheri. Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel was also disallowed to leave the Lucknow airport as he sought to reach the violence-hit spot.

Defending the Congress leaders’ attempt to reach Lakhimpur Kheri, Rahul said it was a method to “build pressure” on the government.

“Opposition’s job is to build pressure. When we build pressure, that leads to investigation and action. In Hathras (rape case), we built pressure and that led to an investigation. If we hadn’t gone there, that wouldn’t have happened,” he said.

“Honestly, it is your (media’s) job too. But you don’t do it. You have forgotten your responsibility, and then turn around and question us,” he added.

Gandhi also said that it is important for leaders to meet the families of the victims in order to give them support and hope. 

“We are trying to give them confidence that in this country you cannot be run over by a criminal who calls himself the home minister’s son, and then nothing happens. We will not allow that. We want to tell them that’s not okay, we want to give them hope. Today, they have no hope,” he said.


Also read: Lakhimpur Kheri reporter was alive but police took him to morgue, not hospital, brother agonises


‘Manhandle us all you want, we don’t care’

Asked about the arrest of Priyanka Gandhi, who was taken into custody early Monday and subsequently kept in a Sitapur compound (40 km from Lakhimpur Kheri), Rahul Gandhi said this is a matter about farmers first.

“Yes, Priyanka has been taken into custody. But this is about the farmers,” he said. 

In a video uploaded on Twitter Tuesday, Priyanka had said she hadn’t been served any police order or FIR, and hadn’t been allowed to meet her lawyers either. She was formally arrested subsequently. 

Asked about the visuals of Priyanka being purportedly manhandled by police officials while on her way to Lakhimpur Kheri, Rahul said it doesn’t affect his family.

“Whether it is Priyanka, or me or anyone from our family, you can manhandle us all you want, we don’t care. It doesn’t matter to us. We have years-long training that we get from our family to handle this. We don’t care, this is about the farmers,” Gandhi said.

Gandhi also questioned why Congress leaders are being stopped from meeting the families of the victims. 

“Why are we being stopped? What is our fault?” Gandhi asked, pointing out that other parties such as Trinamool Congress and Bhim Army were allowed to visit the spot.

‘Systematically attacked’

The former Congress chief also accused the government of “arrogance” in its handling of the protests against the three farm laws that were introduced last year. 

“Farmers are being crumpled under jeeps, they are being murdered. There’s no action on BJP’s home minister’s son. On the other hand, farmers of this country are being systematically attacked,” Gandhi said.

“It is arrogance, because the government doesn’t understand the power of farmers,” he added.


Also read: Modi skips Lakhimpur in 35-min Lucknow speech, opposition labels it ‘insensitive, anti-farmer’


 

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