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Standoff between Priyanka Gandhi, UP government ends

On Saturday, some of the villagers from Sonbhadra, where 10 people were gunned down over a land dispute, came to the guesthouse itself.

PTI|
Updated: Jul 20, 2019, 06.30 PM IST
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MIRZAPUR/LUCKNOW/NEW DELHI: The standoff between Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and the Uttar Pradesh government ended Saturday, a day after she 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 people from Sonbhadra 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.

Ten 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.

Twenty-eight others were injured.

After the meeting with the villagers, Priyanka left for Varanasi, where she visited the Kashi Vishwanath and Kaal Bhairav temples.

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 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.

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

On Wednesday, 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 her 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.

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.

She said the Congress will stand with the victims' families and demanded that the state government should give a compensation of Rs 25 lakh each to the families of those killed or injured.

“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 she 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.

In Lucknow, Congressmen spent Friday night at the GPO Park before the statue of Mahatma Gandhi in solidarity with Gandhi.

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