Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was on Friday detained and stopped from going to Sonbhadra where 10 people were gunned down this week, triggering a standoff with the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Uttar Pradesh.
Refusing to furnish a personal bond, Gandhi stayed put at a guesthouse in Mirzapur district where she was taken after she squatted on the road with her supporters, insisting that she be allowed to proceed and meet the victims' families.
In a late-night tweet, she said she is ready to go to jail if she is not allowed to go ahead.
The district magistrate and the superintendent of police were talking with her at the guesthouse in Chunar to persuade her against travelling ahead, said Deputy Inspector General Piyush Kumar Srivastava.
Chunar sub divisional magistrate Satya Prakash said Gandhi was under “preventive detention” and had refused to furnish a personal bond.
On Twitter, the Congress general secretary said she had been under “arrest” for the past nine hours.
She claimed that the administration has told her that she will be sent to jail for 14 days if she doesn't furnish a bail bond of Rs 50,000.
She said she considered paying bail “immoral” in this situation. “If the government wants to put me in jail for the crime of meeting victims, I am totally prepared for that,” Gandhi tweeted in Hindi.
Uttar Pradesh Congress Legislature Party leader Ajay Kumar Lallu, who was with her at the guesthouse, said, "We have clearly said, either let us meet the victims or send us to jail."
Hours earlier, the Congress leader who is in charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh had met some of the injured at the BHU Trauma Centre in Varanasi, 60 km from Sonbhadra.
She was stopped at Narainpur on the Varanasi-Mirzapur road while she was heading towards Sonbhadra.
“Action has been taken against 151 CrPC and Priyanka Gandhi and other members of the Congress have been stopped from proceeding to Sonbhadra, where prohibitory orders have been promulgated," said Mirzapur District Magistrate Anurag Patel.
“She will not be allowed to proceed for apprehension of breach of peace. If she decides to stay back here we will extend security to her," the DM said.
Rahul Gandhi, who has resigned as the Congress president, called the police action “illegal arrest”.
As Congress leaders came out in Gandhi's support and party workers held protests against the UP government, Trinamool Congress announced in New Delhi that it too planned to send a delegation to Sonbhadra on Saturday.
Earlier in the day, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath blamed the previous Congress governments for the dispute that triggered Wednesday's violence, narrating how the piece of land over which the clash took place was bought and sold over the decades.
Promising justice, he announced in the state assembly that a sub-divisional magistrate and four policemen have been suspended. Twenty-nine people were arrested, he said.
Ten people were killed and 28 injured in the clash between supporters of a village headman, Yagya Dutt, and the Gond tribals in Sonbhadra district's Ghorawal area on Wednesday. Dutt's supporters allegedly opened fire on the tribals.
Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati issued a statement, asking the state's BJP government to ensure justice for the Sonbhadra victims. But she blamed both the BJP and the Congress for “atrocities” on tribals in the past.
At Narainpur, Gandhi, asked the police to produce the orders to stop her.
"A boy of my son's age was shot at and is lying in hospital. Tell me on what legal basis have I been stopped here," she said.
“I want to meet the victims... I only want to meet the affected families whose members were mercilessly shot dead," she said.
Surrounded by Congress supporters at the Chunar guesthouse, she said, "I was told that there are orders from higher-ups but the order stopping me was not shown.”
"I will not leave without meeting the victims and their families," she said.
"I have come here to tell the country what is happening in this state," she added.
In an earlier tweet, she said, "It is the duty of the UP government to arrest the criminals. My duty is to stand with the oppressed.”
“BJP has failed to control crime but is stopping me from discharging my duty. No one can stop me from standing in support of the victims. Please stop crime.”
Terming the action against his sister "illegal arrest", Rahul Gandhi said, "This arbitrary application of power reveals the BJP government's increasing insecurity in UP."
Congress general secretary in-charge Uttar Pradesh-West Jyotiraditya Scindia said the action was "open disrespect" of democracy.
"Meeting families of victims and expressing condolences is the responsibility of public representatives. The government has attempted to crush democracy which is highly condemnable," he said in a tweet in Hindi.
"By arresting Priyanka Gandhi, keeping her in Chunar, will the UP government be able to cover up the killing of 10 people of a tribal family in Sonbhadra?" Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala asked in a tweet in Hindi.
Asked to comment, UP Deputy Chief Minister Dinesh Sharma told reporters, "Whether it is the ruling party or the opposition, everyone's collective responsibility is to ensure that the situation does not aggravate further."
“The opposition should help the government in building bonhomie among the people," he told reporters.