NEW DELHI: Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi today set out to visit Saharanpur in western UP, which is tense after caste clashes earlier this week. With the Uttar Pradesh police denying him permission for a visit, party sources said Mr Gandhi plans to see how far they allow him to go. He is accompanied by Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Raj Babbar.
Senior police officer Aditya Mishra had told NDTV yesterday that no politician is being allowed to visit the town for now. Mr Mishra did not name Mr Gandhi, but said political leaders will have to wait for a few days before they can plan visits to Saharanpur, about 181 km from national capital Delhi.
“Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi has not been given permission to visit Saharanpur,” news agency Press Trust of India quoted another senior police officer Bablu Kumar as saying.
Congress leaders in Delhi however said Mr Gandhi’s visit aims to “take stock of the prevailing situation”. He plans to visit Shabbirpur village, the epicentre of clashes between Dalits and Thakurs or Rajputs since last month.
The BJP condemned the move calling it “political tourism”. Uttar Pradesh minister Sidharth Nath Singh said, “He wants photo opportunities. That is what he is known for. The administration will certainly not give him the permission.”
On Tuesday, a Dalit man was killed and several people were injured when a mob attacked supporters of Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati with swords and guns soon after she held a rally in Shabbirpur. Before Ms Mayawati’s rally 12 homes in the village belonging to Rajputs had been set afire by unknown people and the mob attack was seen as retaliation. Groups of Dalits then attacked shops and markets.
The Yogi Adityanth government of the BJP in UP has blamed Ms Mayawati’s visit and has called the continuing incidents of violence in the area a “well-planned conspiracy.”
Chief Minister Adityanath despatched a team led by the states home secretary to Saharanpur the same night by special plane and the Union Home Ministry has rushed 400 riot-control policemen to ensure law and order Saharanpur. Mobile internet services and social networking sites were blocked in areas where there have been clashes, to prevent the spread of rumours.
Top police officers and a senior bureaucrat were also swiftly removed and earlier this week and the state government said it hopes a new team will be able to bring things to normal within a day.