Shahjahanpur (UP): At least 80 Congress party workers were arrested in Uttar Pradesh's Shahjahanpur and several more in Sitapur on Monday, while holding a public meeting ahead of the 'Nyay Yatra' they had planned in support of the jailed law student who has accused the BJP's Chinmayanand of rape.
Accusing the Uttar Pradesh Police of blocking the march, the Congress said its leaders, including former union minister Jitin Prasad, were detained.
The district borders of Shahjahanpur and Sitapur were blocked from all sides and prominent leaders were detained.
Party leaders had planned a 180-km march from Shahjahanpur to Lucknow in support of the Shahjahanpur victim. The 'padyatra' was to start at Shahjahanpur and conclude in Lucknow in three days.
Shahjahanpur Superintendent of Police (city), Dinesh Tripathi, said, "Congress workers were holding a meeting in front of the party office at a time when prohibitory orders were promulgated in the city and 80 of them have been arrested. They had not taken any permission from the administration. After the arrest, they have been taken to Police Lines."
Police sources claimed that Jitin Prasada, district Congress president Kaushal Misra, leader of Congress Legislative Party Ajay Kumar Lallu and senior party leader Dheeraj Gurjar were among those arrested and kept at Police Lines.
Heavy police deployment has been made at the Congress office in view of the march and roads leading to it were barricaded. However, many Congress workers reached the spot and began a public meeting.
Kaushal Misra claimed he and 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 the residence of Prasada, we were told that no one will be taking out any padyatra," he told reporters.
Jitin Prasada Tweeted, "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 government has no qualms in quashing an individual's fundamental rights."
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra alleged that criminals in UP have the protection of the government so they can intimidate the rape victim.
"The UP BJP government wants to suppress the voices 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?" she tweeted.
The law student, who had levelled accusations against Chinmayanand, was arrested on Wednesday last on charges of extortion and sent to 14 days judicial custody. Her bail plea was later rejected.
Chinmayanand, sent to judicial custody after his arrest, has been booked under section 376 C of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), a charge with lesser punishment than rape.