Lucknow/New Delhi: Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was on Friday detained and stopped from going to Sonbhadra where 10 people were gunned down this week and taken to a guesthouse after she squatted on the road, insisting that she be allowed to proceed, UP Police officials said.
The Sonbhadra shootout acquired a sharp political edge with Congress leaders, including former party president Rahul Gandhi, alleging she was "illegally" arrested and the Uttar Pradesh government was attempting to crush democracy while local police officials maintained she was just detained in Narainpur in the state's Mirzapur district.
As the issue snowballed, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath promised justice and said the sub-divisional magistrate and four other officials were suspended.
Besides, 29 people, including the village headman Yagya Dutt and his brother, were arrested. A committee under the additional chief secretary (Revenue) has also been constituted and will give its report within 10 days, Adityanath said in a statement in the assembly.
Ten people were killed and 18 injured in the clash between supporters of the village head and Gond tribals over a piece of land in Sonbhadra's Ghorawal area on Wednesday. Dutt's supporters allegedly opened fire on the tribals.
Priyanka Gandhi landed in Varanasi and met the injured at the BHU Trauma Centre before making her way to Sonbhadra, about 80 km away. The Congress general secretary UP (East) was stopped on the Varanasi-Mirzapur border.
She was taken to the Chunar guesthouse in nearby after she sat on 'dharna'.
Priyanka Gandhi and other members of the Congress were "stopped and detained" at Narainpur while they were on their way to Sonbhadra, Deputy Inspector General Piyush Kumar Srivastava told PTI.
The district magistrate and the superintendent of police are in discussions with her at the Chunar guesthouse to persuade her not to move to Sonbhadra, the DIG said.
Prohibitory orders are in force in the Ghorawal area in Sonbhadra district and a through checking of vehicles was on to monitor the movement of people, he added.
An agitated Priyanka Gandhi said she only wanted to meet the affected families and demanded to be shown the orders under which she was stopped.
"A boy of my son's age was shot at and is lying in hospital. Tell me on what legal basis have I been stopped here," she said.
"I can move ahead only with four people. I want to meet the victims... I only want to meet the affected families, whose members have been mercilessly shot dead."
Congress leader Ajai Rai from the area said she was taken into police custody along with other Congress leaders and workers.
Back in Delhi, former party chief Rahul Gandhi termed the action against his sister "illegal arrest".
"This arbitrary application of power reveals the BJP government's increasing insecurity in UP," he said.
Congress general secretary in-charge Uttar Pradesh West Jyotiraditya Scindia also hit out at the UP government for stopping Priyanka Gandhi from proceeding to Sonbhadra, saying the action was "open disrespect" of democracy.
"Meeting families of victims and expressing condolences is the responsibility of public representatives. The government has attempted to crush democracy which is highly condemnable," he said in a tweet in Hindi.
"By arresting Priyanka Gandhi, keeping her in Chunar, will the UP government be able to cover up the killing of 10 people of a tribal family in Sonbhadra?" Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala asked in a tweet in Hindi.
Asked to comment on the development, UP Deputy Chief Minister Dinesh Sharma told reporters, "Whether it is the ruling party or the opposition, everyone's collective responsibility is to ensure that the situation does not aggravate further. The opposition should help the government in building bonhomie among the people."