Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra played the role of protector on Saturday afternoon during a brief clash between Congress workers and Uttar Pradesh cops at the toll plaza on the Delhi-Noida Direct (DND) Flyover, where she and her brother had been stopped while on their way to Hathras to visit the family of the Dalit woman who was gang raped and killed last month.
In visuals of the confusion at the Delhi-UP border, Mrs Gandhi Vadra – in a dark blue kurta and wearing a face mask – can be seen hopping a small yellow barricade and rushing to shield a man in a white kurta as cops with raised lathis surround her and a horde of reporters cover the ruckus.
As the video plays out Mrs Gandhi Vadra stands resolutely between the man, who appeared to be injured, and the police, helping him to sit down by the side of the road and standing by his side.
Mrs Gandhi Vadra and her brother, Rahul Gandhi, were at the toll plaza on the DND today to make a second attempt to travel to Hathras and meet the family of the 20-year-old woman who was gang raped and died this week at a Delhi hospital from injuries sustained in that savage assault.
Her body was then cremated by the police in a secretive ceremony at 2.30 am, allegedly without giving her family members one last chance at grieving for her.
The Congress leaders’ first attempt, on Thursday, ended in a tussle with cops who refused to let Mr Gandhi pass, citing orders banning large gatherings amid coronavirus concerns, and shoving him to the ground in the chaos that followed.
This time, though, facing severe criticism over its handling of the Hathras tragedy and the physical confrontation with Mr Gandhi (as well as similar treatment meted out to Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien), the Yogi Adityanath government backed down, allowing the Gandhis and two senior Congress leaders to proceed.
The government had previously insisted that large gatherings – such as those of the Congress delegation – were not allowed in line with Covid management guidelines. These orders prohibit people from travelling in groups of more than five.
The ruling BJP, which is under pressure over its apparent inability to prevent horrific crimes against women – at least two more assaults and rapes have been reported from the state since then – had earlier dismissed the Congress’s protests as a “political stunt”.
This morning Union Minister Smriti Irani hit out at Rahul Gandhi, accusing him of staging a visit to Hathras for political gain.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, whose resignation has been demanded by activists and the opposition, made a declaration of his government’s commitment on Friday. “Those who even think of harming mothers and daughters in UP, their destruction is assured,” he tweeted in Hindi.
Furious protests against the police and the government have been staged across the country, including one in national capital Delhi on Friday, where Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal made an appearance and demanded that the four accused be executed.
The Allahabad High Court has taken notice of the case and has summoned top officials of the government and police to appear before it on October 12.