MANDSAUR: Rahul Gandhi was detained today before he could enter Madhya Pradesh for a visit to Mandsaur, the epicenter of violent farmer protests that have escalated over the death of five in police firing on Tuesday. The Congress vice president dramatically swapped his car for a bike, defying police barricades, and finally set out on foot before he was stopped and taken to a makeshift jail.
This morning, Mr Gandhi began his action-packed journey by flying to Rajasthan’s Udaipur and then driving in a convoy towards Mandsaur, around 180 km away.
When his car was stopped near the border, the Congress leader was seen jumping on to a bike in the crush of security personnel, Congress workers, journalists and policemen.
Around 3 km from the border, the Congress leaders were stopped again. That is where Mr Gandhi got off the bike and started a brisk walk, ring-fenced by the elite Special Protection Group, with Congress workers shouting slogans. He was seen in visuals arguing heatedly with policemen.
At the border, Mr Gandhi broke through police barricades and tried to walk through nearby fields but was stopped.
The 46-year-old tweeted about his journey, targeting the BJP governments of both states.
Office of RG ✔ @OfficeOfRG
Raj & MP Govts are doing their best to prevent me from entering MP & meeting the families of the #farmers killed in #Mandsaur
Office of RG ✔ @OfficeOfRG
What law of the land says that it is illegal to stand in solidarity with farmers who were killed simply for demanding what is their right?
1:02 PM – 8 Jun 2017
863 863 Retweets 1,084 1,084 likes
The police had said this morning they would not allow Mr Gandhi and other Congress leaders to enter Mandsaur, where a round-the-clock curfew is in force after violence. At Neemuch near the border, around 700 policemen were tasked with ensuring politicians didn’t enter.
For over a week, a large group of farmers have been protesting in Mandsaur, demanding better prices for their crop and loan waivers.
Tension peaked on Tuesday as protesters threw rocks and vandalized vehicles, after which the police allegedly opened fire at a crowd. Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Bhupendra Singh confirmed today the death of five farmers in the clashes was because of police firing, which he had vehemently denied earlier.
Madhya Pradesh’s Mandsaur is tense after farmers’ protest and a round-the-clock curfew is in force.
Yesterday, Mr Gandhi announced on Twitter that he would travel to the state that has continuously voted the BJP since 2003.
Mr Gandhi, the party’s number two leader, is set to take over as Congress president by October.
Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar has accused the Congress vice president of going to violence-hit Mandsaur because “he is publicity hungry”.