Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and three others will be allowed to visit Lakhimpur Kheri – where eight people died Sunday in violence after a convoy of cars mowed down farmers holding a peaceful protest – the Uttar Pradesh Home Department said this afternoon.
It is understood Mr Gandhi and Ms Gandhi Vadra will travel to Choraha to meet the family of Lovepreet Singh, 19, after which they will meet Raman Kashyap’s family at Nidhasan and then travel to Nanpara.
A delegation from Delhi’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party – led by MLA Raghav Chadha has also been given permission. They were detained yesterday evening around 15 km from Lakhimpur Kheri.
UP police had so far blocked Mr Gandhi, Ms Gandhi Vadra and other opposition leaders, including those from the AAP, from travelling to Lakhimpur Kheri to visit the families of the four farmers run over by vehicles, one of which was allegedly driven by Union Minister Ajay Mishra’s son, Ashish Mishra.
Ms Gandhi Vadra was arrested Monday – the Congress and she have claimed “illegal detention” by the state government – and Mr Gandhi was denied permission to visit Lakhimpur Kheri soon after.
Earlier today Mr Gandhi addressed a press conference in Delhi and condemned what he called “a systematic attack on farmers” and pointing out “there used to be democracy in India…”
“There used to be democracy (now) there is dictatorship in India. Politicians cannot go to Uttar Pradesh. We are being told since yesterday that we cannot go to Uttar Pradesh,” he had said.
Mr Gandhi said he would not be deterred by the Uttar Pradesh government’s refusal of permission and that he would go through with his visit to “understand the ground reality”.
Hours later he, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and his Punjab counterpart Charanjit Channi, and two others were reportedly briefly stopped from boarding their Delhi-Lucknow flight.
Mr Gandhi’s flight landed at Lucknow airport at around 1.45 pm. Visuals from the airport show large numbers of CRPF, or Central Reserve Police Force, personnel, who are expected to briefly stop the Congress delegation before allowing them to proceed.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has been held in “illegal detention” in Sitapur (around 50 km from Lakhimpur Kheri) since Monday. She has said she has been served no FIR or legal notice to explain her arrest.
“I have also not been allowed to meet my legal counsel who has been standing at the gate since morning,” she said. Her husband, businessman Robert Vadra, wrote that he had also been stopped from visiting UP to “check on my wife and make sure she is fine and well”.
UP police had said the case against Ms Gandhi Vadra, and 10 others, relates to preventive detention due to apprehension of breach of peace. But she insisted that the travelling group was small – only four people – and that eight of those named in the police’s FIR were not even present.
Eight people, including four farmers, died Sunday as violence erupted during a farmers’ protest in Lakhimpur Kheri ahead of a visit by Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya.
The other four were people in the cars; they were part of a convoy of BJP workers who had come to welcome Mr Maurya and were attacked after allegedly running over the protesting farmers.
One of the cars in the convoy was allegedly driven by Union Minister Ajay Mishra’s son. Mr Mishra told NDTV that while the car was his, neither he nor his son were at the scene of the clashes.
UP police have filed a murder case against Ashish Mishra but have not arrested him so far.
Mr Mishra, who is the junior Home Minister, met his senior, Amit Shah, today.