Rahul Gandhi Hathras
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi being stopped by police personnel while on his way to Hathras along with party workers to meet the family members of a 19-year-old Dalit woman who was murdered and gang-raped two weeks ago. Gandhi's vehicle was stopped by the authorities, at Yamuna Expressway in Noida, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020. Image Credit: PTI

The Uttar Pradesh police, which reports to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, today attacked, hit and pushed to the ground former Congress president Rahul Gandhi.

The provocation: Gandhi and his sister Priyanka Gandhi, Congress party general secretary for Uttar Pradesh, were on their way to Hathras to meet the family of the teen who was gang raped and murdered and whose remains were forcibly cremated by the Uttar Pradesh police. The Uttar Pradesh police first stopped Gandhi’s cavalcade and then attacked him when he and his sibling tried to march to Hathras. Congress chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala told me for Gulf News that Gandhi was actually attacked with lathis (sticks) by the Uttar Pradesh police. Some perspective here. Gandhi is protected by Z plus security and has lost two members of his family - former prime ministers Indira Gandhi (grandmother) and Rajiv Gandhi (father) to assassinations.

Gandhi and his sister were protected both Special Protection Group (SPG) when the Modi government downgraded the Gandhi family security reserving the SPG only for the Prime Minister. Gandhi had committed no crime when the Uttar Pradesh police seemed to go berserk and attack him. As the pictures of the incident testify Gandhi did not offer any resistance to his attackers. The right to peaceful democratic protest is virtually enshrined in India’s democratic Constitution, which is increasingly under threat from the Modi government.

Uttar Pradesh, India’s most politically significant bellwether state with 80 Lok Sabha seats, has seen increasing cases of rapes, murders and caste attacks ever since Yogi Adityanath became chief minister. It is widely said Yogi Adityanath runs what is called a “Thakur raj” (benefitting his own upper caste clan) and incidents of atrocities against Dalits is increasing. After the brutal gang rape of a teen from Hathras came to light where her attackers had cut off her tongue and severed her spinal cord causing her death, another gang rape of a Dalit girl was reported in Balrampur in Uttar Pradesh where her legs had been broken. Both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Smriti Irani, his Child and Development Minister, are MP’s from Varanasi and Amethi respectively and yet have maintained a deafening silence on the gang rapes. It is unprecedented in recent India that the police manhandle and attack one of the most senior Opposition leaders for simply trying to meet the family of victims.

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Says a senior Congress leader: “The lights of democracy are dimming. It is not Gandhi being pushed to the ground it is Indian democracy.”

Swati Chaturvedi, Special to Gulf News-1592296808900