Chinmayanand case: Cong workers arrested ahead of march

Chinmayanand case: Cong workers arrested ahead of march

Police personnel detain Youth Congress activists during a protest against price hike of onion and other essential commodities, in Guwahati, Monday, Sept 30, 2019. (PTI Photo)

About 80 Congress workers were Monday arrested at a public meeting ahead of a march they planned in support of the student who has accused BJP leader Swami Chinmayanand of rape, police said.

The Congress claimed there were several arrests in other areas of Uttar Pradesh too as police tried to stop the party’s “nyay yatra” – a 180-km “march for justice” from Shahjahanpur to state capital Lucknow.

Former union minister Jitin Prasada was stopped from leaving his Shahjahanpur home for the march and placed under “house arrest”, the party said.

Shahjahanpur district’s border borders were blocked from all sides, the opposition party added on its official Twitter handle.

Superintendent of Police (City) Dinesh Tripathi said Congress workers were holding a meeting in front of the party office in Shahjahanpur at a time when prohibitory orders were in force and 80 of them have been arrested.

"They had not taken any permission from the administration. After arrest, they have been taken to Police Lines," he said.

UP Congress legislature party leader Ajay Kumar Lallu and national secretary Dheeraj Gurjar were among those arrested, police said.

The Congress said its members will now hold meetings in all district headquarters in the state on Tuesday to protest over this.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra criticised the arrests.

"The BJP government of UP is standing with the one committing atrocities on daughters and is taking protesting Congressmen into custody," Rahul Gandhi tweeted.

A large police force was deployed at the Shahjahanpur Congress office ahead of the march and roads leading to it barricaded.

But many Congress workers reached the spot and began a public meeting.

A small group of party workers from Lakhimpur Kheri gave anxious moments to the police when they climbed atop a water tank near the Shahjahanpur Congress office.

District Congress president Kaushal Mishra claimed he and Jitin Prasada were under house arrest.

"SDM (sub-divisional magistrate) Sadar and CO (circle officer) City told me that I and Jitin Prasada have been put under house arrest. When they were asked why a heavy police force was deployed outside Prasada’s residence, we were told that no one will be taking out any padyatra," Mishra told PTI.

Prasada spoke out on Twitter.

"UP is no Kashmir yet today I am in preventive custody for simply wanting to highlight the plight of the Shahjahanpur rape victim. This BJP govt has no qualms in quashing an individual's fundamental rights," he tweeted.

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra alleged that criminals in UP have the protection of the government so that they can intimidate the rape victim.

"The UP BJP government wants to suppress the voice seeking justice for the daughter of Shahjahanpur. The padyatra is being stopped. Our workers and leaders are being arrested. What is there to be afraid of?" the Congress general secretary in-charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh said in a tweet in Hindi.

In Lucknow, Congress leader P L Punia claimed that over 5,000 party workers were arrested across the state.

These included the state Mahila Congress president Sushmita Dev and MLA Aradhana Mishra, he said.

“The government is out to gag the voice of the Opposition and democracy,” he said.

“Though the BJP leader was arrested after pressure from all over, he is resting in an AC room and the woman against whom sufficient evidence has not yet been found has been jailed," Punia said, referring to the student and the former Union minister who was shifted later from the jail to a hospital.

The student was arrested last week and sent to 14 days’ judicial custody. Along with three others, she has been charged with trying to extort money from the politician.

Chinmayanand, sent to judicial custody after his arrest earlier, was booked under section 376C of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), a charge with lesser punishment than rape.

Earlier, Aradhana Mishra, deputy leader of the Congress Legislature Party said the case against Chinmayanand should be taken up in a fast-track court.

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