Congress leader Rahul Gandhi attacked the central government over violence in Lakhimpur Kheri, claiming that systematic attack is happening on the farmers. Addressing a press conference in New Delhi, Gandhi said he will try to visit Lakhimpur Kheri along with two chief ministers to meet the families of those farmers who were killed on Sunday.
Gandhi also said he wants to send a message of hope to the farmers through his visit, that, in this country, even if a farmer is killed by the Home Minister’s son, the culprits cannot get away scot-free.
Gandhi said the country’s institutions have been taken over by BJP and RSS, who are trying to snatch farmers’ rights from them, and are systematically attacking them and provoking them, which he said is very “dangerous”. The Congress, he said, wants to tell the BJP governments that they should not interfere with the democratic processes of the country, as they are a safety valve.
Regarding his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s detention in Sitapur since early Monday morning, Gandhi said the focus is the plight of farmers, and it didn’t matter if the Gandhi family was manhandled, detained or killed.
“Whether it is Priyanka, or me, or anyone else from our family, we are not bothered by manhandling. We don’t care at all, you can do whatever to us. We are talking about the farmers. You can detain us, manhandle us, kill us, it doesn’t matter, this is our training. We have got this training in our family for years,” Gandhi said.
Addressing the media at a brief conference, flanked by Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi to his left and Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel to his right, Gandhi said the three of them would leave for Lucknow and then from there to Lakhimpur Kheri to meet the families of the farmers.
“Today we will try to go to Lucknow, Lakhimpur Kheri and meet the families of the victims with two chief ministers,” he said, of his party. “I want to go there and understand the ground reality… nobody really knows it yet,” he added.
While aircraft of both Baghel and Channi were disallowed from landing in Lucknow on Monday, on Tuesday, Baghel was not allowed to leave the airport, where he then sat on a dharna for around two hours.
“For the past some time, the government is attacking the farmers of India. First, farmers are being mowed down by jeeps, they are being murdered. We are talking about BJP’s home minister, his son, no action is being taken against them,” Gandhi said.
On the other hand, Gandhi stated, there are systematic attacks on farmers. “First was the reversal of the Land Acquisition Bill, second the three farmer Bills. Now, farmers’ rights are being snatched systematically. This theft is happening with everyone, which is why the farmers are sitting outside Delhi,” he said.
Gandhi said the post-mortems of the farmers killed “aren’t happening properly, and whoever speaks up for them, is being detained.”
He also questioned why Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was in Lucknow yesterday, couldn’t go to Lakhimpur Kheri.
“It is a systematic attack on the farmers of this country. It is arrogance, because the government doesn’t understand or realise the power of the farmers. They’re provoking the farmers, they’re insulting the farmers, they’re killing the farmers… this is a very dangerous and bad idea,” he said.
Gandhi mentioned that he has informed the authorities about their intended movement towards Lakhimpur Kheri, and since it is only a party of three, Section 144 — which has been imposed in Lakhimpur Kheri since Monday — should not be applicable. “We have written a letter about it. Three of us are going. Section 144 prevents five people. Three people can go under Section 144,” said Gandhi.
The Congress leader said that in Uttar Pradesh, “farmers are being killed”. He compared it to the rape of a Dalit woman in Hathras last year, and the rape of a 17-year-old girl by BJP MLA Kuldeep Sengar in 2017.
“This is a systematic new politics in UP. Criminals can do whatever they want, they can rape, they can kill farmers. Those who kill and rape remain outside the jail, those who are attacked go to jails.”
The Opposition’s job, he said, is to put pressure on the government. “When we put pressure, then action is taken. We put pressure during Hathras, then only action was taken. The government does not want us to raise this issue or build pressure so that those who committed the murder can elope. Had we not gone to Hathras, those who had raped would have gotten away scot-free; had we not spoken about their MLA, he would have run away.”
Gandhi said the Congress was putting pressure in the current case “because farmers have been wronged, they have been murdered.”
Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel, who claimed on Tuesday that he was going to meet Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in Sitapur where she was detained but was not being allowed to leave the Lucknow airport.
The Uttar Pradesh Police has registered an FIR against Priyanka Gandhi and 11 others for “disturbing the peace” in the state. The Congress general secretary, meanwhile, claimed she has been put under detention without any order or FIR.