Businessman Robert Vadra, husband of Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, on Wednesday spoke out against the manner in which the administration in Uttar Pradesh blocked his wife from visiting the families of the victims of violence in Lakhimpur Kheri.
“The way I look at it, that if Priyanka was allowed to go and meet the families of the victims, she would have gone and met them, helped them… the Congress would extend support, but then she was stopped, she was pushed and shoved, and the videos went viral, and then she was detained too. Had they just allowed her to go and meet, she would have gone, and all would have happened peacefully and all would have been under control,” Mr Vadra told NDTV in an interview.
“Sunday evening we were all together – my children were there too. But she is always working, even when we spend time as a family. She suddenly told us that she needs to leave for UP… it was shortly after 8 pm. She told me what happened and that she wants to go and meet the families of all those who died in the incident,” he said.
“She plans to meet all the families – all those who have died… she does not differentiate, so she will meet all those who died. The whole nation is now looking at the way things were handled,” Mr Vadra said.
“They detained her and gave her a dirty room, so she cleaned it. We spoke a few times, but then they cut all mobile networks, and so communications were cut-off. They even told me that if I tried to come, I would be stopped too. A BJP spokesperson also said that ‘these people are coming here only for a photo-op’,” he said.
“I am glad Rahul could go… I hope they let him meet his sister. Someone from the family had to be there. I am here with my children, who are very worried for their mother. We all had seen what had happened even in Hathras, when they caught hold of her neck,” he added.
“Priyanka is a very determined and strong-headed person. If she has taken a pledge to meet the victims, then she will definitely meet her, no matter how difficult the government makes it for her. She will only return after meeting the families of the victims,” Mr Vadra said.
“What are they so afraid of? Why can’t they just let her meet them? She is travelling alone… a woman, alone… what can she do? Are they afraid of her? Or are they afraid they will lose their seat or will lose power?” he said.
Earlier on Wednesday, in a Facebook post, Mr Vadra said he had been stopped from going to Lucknow to “check on my wife and make sure she is fine and well”. He also expressed shock that his wife had not been allowed to meet her legal counsel while in police custody.
Ms Gandhi Vadra was arrested Monday while on her way to Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri to visit the families of farmers killed in Sunday’s violence. She had alleged she is being illegally held at a police compound in Sitapur (around 50 km from Lakhimpur Kheri).
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s extended detention – she has now been allowed to visit farmers’ families – triggered protests from the Congress and other parties, including Sanjay Raut of the Shiv Sena.
Her brother and Congress MP Rahul Gandhi was also been denied permission before being cleared later; Mr Gandhi, who reached UP on Wednesday, called the state government’s actions a “systematic attack on farmers” and said he would defy the order.
At the time of her arrest, orders banning the gathering of more than four persons were in place in Lakhimpur Kheri, where four farmers were run over by a convoy of vehicles that allegedly included one driven by Union Minister Ajay Mishra’s son. Four more died in the violence that followed.
UP police have said the case against Ms Gandhi Vadra, and 10 others, relates to preventive detention due to apprehension of breach of peace.
However, she has said she was travelling in a small group – only four people with her – and that eight of those named by the police were not even present.
Apart from Ms Gandhi Vadra, other opposition leaders have also been stopped, including Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, who was blocked from leaving Lucknow airport.