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Sonbhadra victims' kin meet Priyanka at UP guesthouse

Last updated on: July 20, 2019 20:16 IST

The standoff between Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and the Uttar Pradesh government ended on Saturday, a day after the Congress leader was detained when she insisted on going to Sonbhadra where 10 people were gunned down this week.

Gandhi headed back to Delhi after a meeting with some Sonbhadra villagers who travelled to the Mirzapur guesthouse where she had stayed overnight, refusing an offer from local administration to furnish a personal bond and leave.

She said those who had 'arrested' her and brought her to the Chunar guesthouse were now saying she is free to leave.

"I want to tell them that I have fulfilled my objective. I met the family members. I am leaving today, but I shall return," she told party workers who thronged the guesthouse.

UP Congress leader Ajay Rai said, "The standoff between Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi and the Mirzapur district administration is over as she has met members of the aggrieved families from Sonbhadra."

Rai said she met 15 people from the victims' families, including seven women.

10 people, all Gond tribals, were shot dead Wednesday when a village headman, Yagya Dutt, and his supporters allegedly opened fire in an attempt to take possession of a piece of land in Ubbha village in Sonbhadra's Ghorawal area. 28 others were injured, including nine supporters of the village head.

After the meeting with the villagers, Priyanka left for Varanasi, where she offered prayers at the Kashi Vishwanath and Kaal Bhairav temples before heading for Delhi.

The deadlock ended amid a show of solidarity in the Congress for Gandhi, who is the general secretary in charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh, with party leaders calling her detention 'illegal arrest' and organising protests at several places.

Congress leaders Raj Babbar, Rajeev Shukla, R P N Singh and Jitin Prasada landed at the Varanasi airport, but were stopped from travelling ahead to Sonbhadra or Chunar, where Gandhi was then detained.

Earlier in Lucknow, a Congress delegation submitted a memorandum to UP Governor Ram Naik, urging him to direct the state government to allow Gandhi to meet the Sonbhadra victims' families.

A three-member Trinamool Congress delegation from Delhi was also detained at Varanasi airport.

29 people were arrested after the clash, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said Friday, while blaming the previous Congress governments for the land dispute which has been festering for decades.

Adityanath will go to Ubbha village on Sunday, officials said.

On Friday, Priyanka Gandhi met some of the victims at the BHU Trauma Centre in Varanasi.

But she was stopped by police at Narainpur in Mirzapur district, while she was travelling to Sonbhadra by road.

When Gandhi insisted on going to Ubbha village, she and her supporters were brought to the guesthouse.

The administration said she had been taken into 'preventive detention' as prohibitory orders were in force in Sonbhadra.

On Facebook, Rahul Gandhi slammed the action against his sister.

"The imprisonment of Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi, on way to meet the families of Sonbhadra massacre victims, in Chunar guest house through the night without water and electricity by a dictatorially inclined UP government is an attempt to trample upon democracy," he said in Hindi.

Priyanka Gandhi said her party will pay Rs 10 lakh each to the families of those killed in the violence and demanded that the state government should pay a compensation of Rs 25 lakh each.

After the guesthouse meeting with the villagers, Gandhi accused the Sonbhadra administration of not acting in time to prevent the violence.

"There are children who have lost both parents. There are some families in which the children and their parents are in the hospital," she told reporters.

"The ownership of the land that they are cultivating for generations should be given to them," she said.

"Cases registered against innocent villagers must be withdrawn and the people leading this fight for their rights must be given security. There is no need to entangle these people in politics," she said.

On Twitter, she said, "Finally met the families of the Ubbha massacre. What they have been through is unimaginably brutal and unjust. Every single Indian should stand with them in the name of humanity."

District magistrate Anurag Patel said Gandhi was stopped from going to Sonbhadra to prevent a breach of peace.

"There were chances that her visit to Sonbhadra may affect law and order. She was only stopped from going to Sonbhadra. She was neither taken into custody nor stopped from going to any other place," he said.

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Priyanka Gandhi staging drama: UP BJP chief

Accusing Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra of staging a drama with her protest over the killing of 10 people in Sonbhadra, newly-appointed Uttar Pradesh Bharatiya Janata Party chief Swatantra Dev Singh Saturday said the grand old party must abstain from it.

He said it was a sad incident, but the Uttar Pradesh government worked swiftly and almost all the accused were arrested.

"Action is being taken against all those guilty and officials have been suspended for laxity. This incident is a result of the misdeeds (kukarm) of the Congress, whenever it was in power. They indulged in corruption," he alleged.

Stepping up the attack, he alleged, "Priyanka Gandhi is staging a drama with her dharna. She is doing politics even after her meeting with 20 families was facilitated by the state government. This act is only meant to politicise the pain of the poor people and to derive political mileage from it. The Congress must abstain from it."

Singh said the Congress wanted to disturb the good atmosphere in the state and it was not bothered about ensuring justice for families of the affected people.

"She is only shedding crocodile tears. It has been the policy of the Congress to grab people's land. The drama must stop and she should not vitiate the atmosphere," he said.

Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Dinesh Sharma Saturday alleged that lands of Dalits and tribals used for farming were grabbed by the Congress.

"The trust set up by the Congress in 1955 was given to some person in 1989. It was during the tenure of Congress governments that land of Dalits and tribals was given to land mafia. This dispute dates back to the Congress era," he alleged.

The Congress and its allies, the Samajwadi Party and the BSP, had illegally occupied land of the poor during their regime, Sharma claimed.

"Illegal properties worth of crores owned by members of these parties are now being discovered. The BJP government is investigating it thoroughly," he said.

"It is the Congress which distributed the land of the poor among influential people and now, Priyanka Gandhi is staging political drama (over it)," the deputy chief minister said.

IMAGES: Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra consoles a family member of Sonbhadra massacre victim, who had travelled to Chunar Fort to meet her after the former was stopped from proceeding to Sonbhadra, in Mirzapur, on Saturday. Photographs: PTI Photo
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