Congress, SP step up heat on Yogi Adityanath
The Congress and the Samajwadi Party on Saturday sought chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s resignation over the Unnao gang-rape and murder case, while deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya admitted the repeated rapes had “tarnished” the state government’s image.
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi, who met the family of the Unnao woman who was allegedly gang-raped a year ago and set on fire on Thursday, said the accused were connected to the BJP. Samajwadi president and former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav echoed the charge.
Maurya evaded reporters’ questions on this in Lucknow but said: “I cannot deny that such incidents tarnish the government’s image. We are trying our best to control such crimes and punish the guilty.”
Priyanka, who was on a two-day tour of Lucknow, cancelled her meetings on Saturday after the 22-year-old woman died at Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital on Friday night, and travelled to Hindu Nagar village to meet her family.
“It’s the failure of all of us that we couldn’t ensure justice to a victim. However, it also shows the state of law and order in UP. This government has lost the right to stay in power,” she told reporters.
She said that Savitri Devi, village panchayat chief and mother of one of the accused, was a BJP member. The villagers had earlier alleged the accused were BJP activists and had renamed the village from Bhatan Khera to Hindu Nagar at a meeting in 2017.
State Congress chief Ajay Kumar Lallu, who had accompanied Priyanka to the village, said: “Adityanath should return to the Gorakhnath temple if the BJP leadership doesn’t sack him. His incompetence has led to the death of the Unnao gang-rape victim but he is shamelessly sticking to his chair.”
In Lucknow, Congress supporters sat on a dharna on the road between the Assembly building and the state BJP headquarters. The police carried out a baton charge, which left at least two dozen people injured, and dragged the protesters away.
Later, some Samajwadi workers held a protest at the same place and were removed forcibly.
An hour before the Congress dharna, Akhilesh sat at the main gate of the Assembly for about 30 minutes and observed two minutes’ silence from 11.40am. He explained that the Unnao victim had died at 11.40pm on Friday.
“Those who gang-raped and set our innocent daughter on fire belong to the BJP. We cannot expect justice under BJP rule,” Akhilesh told reporters.
“We cannot ensure the safety of our daughters under the present chief minister, home secretary (Avanish Awasthi) and director-general of police (Om Prakash Singh). They should be removed immediately.”
He cited how two previous rape complainants, one from Unnao and the other from Barabanki, had attempted self-immolation outside the chief minister’s home.
A 32-year-old woman from Barabanki had set herself on fire outside Adityanath’s official residence on April 4, 2018, after the police allegedly refused to register a case on her complaint of gang-rape. She died 10 days later but still no case was registered, police sources said.
On April 8, 2018, a teenaged woman from Unnao and her mother were prevented from setting themselves on fire at Adityanath’s gates. BJP lawmaker Kuldeep Singh Sengar, his brother Jaideep and two associates were later arrested on the charges of gang-raping the teen in May 2017 and later having her father arrested in a false case and beaten to death in an Unnao jail.
In June this year, the woman and her lawyer were grievously injured and two of her aunts killed when a truck collided with their car. Kuldeep’s brother was charged with murder conspiracy but died under mysterious circumstances in Delhi in October.