On Thursday, Congress vowed to continue with its protests against the Uttar Pradesh government's land acquisition policy after party General Secretary Rahul Gandhi was arrested and released following his visit to the epicentre of the stir to support the agitating farmers.
After a three-hour midnight drama of arrest and release, Gandhi was finally escorted back to Delhi by the UP police through the Delhi-Noida-Delhi Expressway and left at the inter-state bus terminus at Sarai Kale Khan.
Gandhi, who spent almost 19 hours at Bhatta Parasul day, the epicentre of the farmers' agitation, was arrested under Section 151 CrPC at around 23:00 hours on Wednesday and was taken to the Kasna police station. He was released on bail by the Uttar Pradesh Police and brought to Delhi at 2:15 hours. He was arrested along with All India Congress Committee General Secretary Digvijay Singh, UP Congress chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi, Congress MPs Raj Babbar and Parvez Hashmi, and other Congress leaders. At the Kasna police station in Greater Noida, Gandhi questioned the grounds on which he was arrested. "They are not showing us the documentation," he had said.
Digvijay Singh said, "Our fight against the Mayawati government will continue. We will be happy to go to jail on farmers' issues". The Congress would stage a strong protest against Gandhi's arrest on Thursday, he added.
Flaying the Mayawati government, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said, "We are working towards the Land Acquisition Act but till such time the law is amended there is absolutely nothing which requires the government to acquire land at throwaway prices without negotiations and to give it to rich persons for rich projects".
"The government is entitled to ensure that the average farmer gets a good deal. This is not something that happened yesterday. These people have been protesting for last several months. Some compensation, some land something could have been worked out," he said.
He also alleged that skeletons were lying in Bhatta Parsaul village and asked if the absence of a central law on land acquisition allows the Mayawati government to "shoot down people".
"What does it have to do with the central law? When policemen are allowed to rampage on Gandhian forms of protests. You may not agree but is a farmer not entitled to protest and are you entitled to go to their villages, their homes, beat up their people, molest their women, burn their crops and actually kill several people. Even today I repeat there are skeletons lying burn there," he alleged.
At a press conference late on Wednesday night in Lucknow, UP Cabinet Secretary Shashank Shekhar Singh had said the situation in Bhatta Parasaul was calm and attempts were being made to vitiate the atmosphere there. Singh said prohibitory orders were re-imposed in the area after Congress leaders sought permission from the state authorities to hold a rally in the village.
Congress attacked Mayawati for Gandhi's arrest with AICC General Secretary Janardan Dwivedi saying UP has witnessed "the cruelest rule of several imperialistic regimes". "UP government's action in arresting Rahul Gandhi proves that Mayawati is digging her own grave," Dwivedi said.
"If any sense of justice is left in the government, judicial inquiry is the minimum that the state government should order immediately," he said.