Congress MP Rahul Gandhi will make another attempt this afternoon to travel to Hathras in Uttar Pradesh and speak to the family of the 20-year-old Dalit woman who was gang raped and murdered, and whose body was then cremated by the police in a secretive ceremony at 2.30 am.
A delegation of party leaders that will include Priyanka Gandhi Vadra wants to speak to the family of the young woman, who have been traumatised first by the savage assault and then by the alleged inaction of the UP Police and government.
“Nothing in the world can stop me from going to Hathras to meet this unhappy family to share their pain,” Mr Gandhi tweeted this morning.
However, shortly afterwards Hathras Sub Divisional Magistrate Prem Prakash Meena said Mr Gandhi would not be allowed to enter the village, access to which has been cut off by the UP government and in which prohibitory orders banning large gatherings is in force.
“Rahul Gandhi is not allowed… currently the arrival of any political party leader is banned,” Mr Meena told news agency ANI, adding, “When orders come to allow delegations, we will let everybody know.”
Sources have told NDTV Mr Gandhi may not even get as far as the village, with UP Police set to stop them at the Delhi-Noida border. Visuals shared online by ANI show police setting up barricades on the Delhi-Noida Direct Flyway in preparation of Mr Gandhi’s arrival.
On Thursday both Mr Gandhi and Mrs Gandhi Vadra were stopped in UP’s Greater Noida (near Delhi) and briefly taken into custody. Mr Gandhi was manhandled and pushed to the ground by the cops in that tussle, prompting indignation at the UP government’s handling of opposition leaders.
“Why are you arresting me? What are the grounds for the arrest? What law am I violating,” Mr Gandhi could be heard saying in dramatic videos of the confrontation with the cops, who said they were charging him with “Section 188” – a law on defying official orders.
A case was later lodged against both Mr Gandhi and Mrs Gandhi Vadra under the Epidemic Act.
The following day (Friday, which happened to be Gandhi Jayanti), Mr Gandhi tweeted: “I won’t be afraid… won’t bow down to any sort of injustice. I will defeat lies with the power of truth…”
Police action against Mr Gandhi was condemned by several opposition leaders, including the Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut, the NCP’s Sharad Pawar and the RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav.
Ahead of today’s planned visit the Congress has claimed that its state chief, Ajay Kumar Lallu, has been placed under house arrest.
The ruling BJP, which is under pressure over its handling of the Hathras tragedy and its apparent inability to prevent such horrific crimes against women – at least two more assaults and rapes have been reported from the state since then – has dismissed these protests as a “political stunt”.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, whose resignation has been demanded by activists and the opposition, made a declaration of his government’s commitment to women’s safety on Friday. “Those who even think of harming mothers and daughters in UP, their destruction is assured,” he tweeted in Hindi.
Furious protests against the police and the government have been staged across the country, including one in national capital Delhi on Friday, where Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal made an appearance and demanded that the four accused be executed.
The Allahabad High Court has taken notice of the case and has summoned top officials of the government and police to appear before it on October 12.