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Rediff.com  » News » Rahul's defiance flummoxes Maya's administration

Rahul's defiance flummoxes Maya's administration

Last updated on: May 12, 2011 15:34 IST

What was Rahul trying to do in Bhatta Parsaul?

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Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow

Sharat Pradhan narrates how Rahul Gandhi's act of defiance by not signing a personal bond for his release on Thursday morning flummoxed the Uttar Pradesh administration

When Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi descended on Bhatta Parsaul village in Greater Noida on Wednesday to show solidarity with protesting farmers on Wednesday, it was evident that the stage was set for a grand confrontation with the state administration headed by Chief Minister Mayawati -- given the acrimony the two share.

But even the hardened cynic was not prepared for the high drama that unfolded late in the night and extended into the wee hours of Thursday.

Never one to take things lying down, Mayawati had him put in jail, perhaps hoping to strike some fear into him, but it was Rahul who turned the tables on the adminitration by refusing to sign a personal bond the Uttar Pradesh police was asking him to swear for his release. He made it loud and clear to the magistrate before who he was produced in the local police station, that he would rather remain in custody than sign any bond.

The local administration was not prepared for this act of defiance, and despite the late hour officials got in touch with top bureaucrats in Lucknow, who eventually advised them to not precipitate matters further and Rahul was released without a bond.

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Image: Rahul Gandhi
Photographs: Rediff Archives
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Discretion to release without bond, say officials

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While Chief Minister Mayawati declined to make any comment on the issue at her press conference in Lucknow on Thursday, her coterie of bureaucrats came up with a convenient reply.

Des"The provisions of Section 151, under which Rahul was arrested, also gives discretion to the concerned magistrate in such matters to even order release without a bond which is not binding," explained cabinet secretary Shashank Shekhar Singh immediately after the press conference.

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Image: UP Chief Minister Mayawati

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Rahul charged with 'breaching peace'

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Rahul was arrested on charges of "apprehension of breach of peace" around 11.30 pm on Wednesday, while he was staging a peaceful sit-in demonstration at Bhatta Parsaul village in Greater Noida, near New Delhi.

Bypassing the heavy security ring around the village because of clashes between farmers and the police last week, Rahul had sneaked into the village in the early hours of Wednesday.

The violence had left four dead, including two cops, following which heavy police deployments had been made in and around the village.

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Image: The Bhatta Parsaul village
Photographs: Sahim Salim/Rediff.com
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'Their highhandedness makes me feel ashamed as an Indian'

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Eighteen hours after he had sat there, the Mayawati government's police stepped in to take him into custody, only to release him around 2 am, when he returned to New Delhi. "The Mayawati government's highhandedness and undemocratic approach makes me feel ashamed as an Indian," Gandhi told mediapersons after his arrest. 

Meanwhile, with Mayawati ordering a crack down on all opposition demonstrators, the state police was busy targetting Congressmen wherever they came out on the streets. In Lucknow, state Congress president Rita Bahuguna Joshi was not only arrested but treated with contempt before being packed off in a tempo to the nearest police station. Her supporters were lathicharged.

Similar reports were pouring in from other parts of the state where Congressmen were staging demonstrations to mark their protest against Rahul's arrest. 

"We are staging state-wide street demonstrations to not only express our protest against Rahul's arrest, but also to highlight the plight of poor farmers whose land was acquired by the UP government for a song," state Congress spokesperson Subodh Srivastava told this reporter on Thursday morning.

"The arrest of our leaders reflects the autocratic attitude of the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party government, which does not believe in democratic values and has time and again made attempts to gag the people's voice,'' he said.

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Image: Farmers shout slogans during a protest march at Noida
Photographs: Parivartan Sharma/Reuters
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'It's just a facade by the opposition'

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Farmers had been agitating for more than 100 days in pursuance of their demand for higher compensation towards their land acquired for infrastructure development.

This includes Yamuna Expressway, a 165-km long expressway connecting the national capital to Agra. Five commercial cum industrial hubs were also planned along the route. Not impressed by the official claim about the fast-track connectivity between New Delhi and Agra, farmers have been agitating against what they term as "inadequate compensation" for the acquired land.

The UP government, however maintains that the issue is just a facade by the opposition."The land was being acquired under the state government's new policy which insists on letting the farmers settle their own rates with the party seeking his land," claimed UP cabinet secretary Shashank Shekhar Singh.

"Government officials simply play the role of facilitator for both sides", he added.

He added, "A majority of farmers had already collected their compensation under the terms of their respective independent agreements. Only a handful of farmers with vested political interests and with encouragement by political parties were creating trouble by making it an issue."


Image: Farmers protest over their land acquisition for the ongoing construction of an expressway by the government
Photographs: Parivartan Sharma/Reuters
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