Lucknow: The Lakhimpur Kheri violence, which left nine people dead, has taken a political turn after the Uttar Pradesh Police Monday detained several opposition leaders, including Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and former UP CM Akhilesh Yadav, for attempting to reach the site.
Social media has been inundated with videos of the leaders, particularly Priyanka Gandhi, confronting the Uttar Pradesh Police, who were looking to detain them. A video of Gandhi sweeping the floor of the room in the Sitapur guest house, where she has been detained, has also gone viral.
The developments come on the day that the Yogi Adityanath government announced compensation of Rs 45 lakh and government jobs to families of those killed in the violence. The injured will be given Rs 10 lakh.
The high-voltage political drama, however, began late Sunday night, when leaders from several opposition parties tried to reach the site of violence in different ways.
A source in the UP Police told ThePrint that Section 144 was imposed at Lakhimpur Kheri following the deaths of eight people in the violence Sunday. Farmers alleged that four of the victims were mowed down by cars in a convoy, including one owned by Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra. They alleged one of the cars was driven by the minister’s son, Ashish Mishra. Four others lost their lives in the ensuing violence.
The ninth victim, local journalist Raman Kashyap, succumbed to his injuries Monday.
The UP Police source said just after the violence, the police prepared a plan to stop opposition leaders from reaching Lakhimpur Kheri.
A senior police officer confirmed to ThePrint that they had orders not to let political leaders reach the site.
“We have orders to not allow any leader to reach Lakhimpur. Heavy force has been deployed on all the borders of the district so that no political movement can happen,” the officer said.
ThePrint attempted to reach UP ADG (law & order) Prashant Kumar for an official comment but he did not respond to phone calls.
Priyanka, Deepender Hooda detained
Among the first to attempt to reach Lakhimpur Kheri was Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who took a flight from Delhi at around 8:30 pm Sunday, and landed in Lucknow along with Congress Rajya Sabha MP Deepender Hooda at 9.30 pm.
At 11.30 pm, she attempted to reach the house in Lucknow that she usually stays in, but there was heavy police presence outside the residence.
The Congress leader asked the police personnel to show arrest orders, but they were not able to do so. She managed to leave for Lakhimpur Kheri after a brawl.
A Congress functionary accompanying her told ThePrint that midway, police tried to stop Priyanka’s movement, but she changed cars to continue. Lakhimpur Kheri is about 130 km north of Lucknow.
“There were also heated arguments between cops and Priyanka and Deepender Hooda en route,” the functionary added. “Trucks and buses were deployed along the way, especially at toll plazas. Somehow, Congress workers managed to make way for them after heated arguments. It was raining heavily when this argument happened.”
In the early hours of Monday, both leaders were detained in Hargaon, a town in Sitapur district, along the Sitapur-Lakhimpur border. Both leaders argued with police personnel, asking for warrants to be produced, but they were taken to the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) guest house in Sitapur city, where several other Congress workers have also been detained.
Congress leaders sat on a dharna outside the guest house where Priyanka has been detained.
The UP government also denied permission for the helicopters carrying Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and Punjab Deputy CM Sukhjinder Randhawa to land at Lucknow airport.
Congress leaders Pramod Tiwari, Aradhana Misra and Salman Khurshid were also detained in Lucknow when they tried to meet Priyanka Gandhi.
Akhilesh sits on dharna, detained after a few hours
Former chief minister and Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav was detained by the Lucknow Police from outside his residence in the city where he had staged a dharna along with his supporters Monday morning.
The police took him to an eco-garden in Lucknow, which has now been turned into a “temporary jail” for the protesters.
Before his arrest, heavy force was deployed outside Akhilesh’s Vikramaditya Marg home, and police trucks were placed to block the road. Hundreds of party workers also gathered outside the house in the morning.
During the protest, a police jeep parked in front of the Gautam Palli Police Station, right beside where Akhilesh Yadav sat on a dharna, was set on fire allegedly by SP workers. The workers, however, claimed that the police torched their own vehicle.
Akhilesh’s uncle and Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (PSP) chief Shivpal Yadav managed to leave his house after being under “house arrest”, but the police again stopped him at the Lucknow-Sitapur border.
Bahujan Samaj Party general secretary Satish Mishra was placed under house arrest after midnight, when he announced he would visit Lakhimpur. SBSP chief Om Prakash Rajbhar also faced the same fate..
Leader who reached the spot
Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad was the only leader who managed to reach Lakhimpur Kheri. The police had detained him at the Sitapur-Lucknow border late Sunday night but released him in the morning.
An Azad Samaj Party functionary told ThePrint that Azad hitched a ride with a biker and reached the spot.
Rashtriya Lok Dal (RJD) chief Jayant Chaudhary, who was on his way to Lakhimpur from Delhi, was stopped by police at several places, but they could not detain him after he managed to give them the slip.
Jayant tweeted a video of him making his “way to Lakhimpur”.
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)