Maya on Sanjay Gandhi track to tame Tikait

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By TAPAS CHAKRABORTY in Lucknow
  • Published 3.04.08
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Lucknow, April 2: Sanjay Gandhi’s legacy has found a worthy successor 28 years after his death.

Mayavati’s police today arrested farmer leader Mahendra Singh Tikait, the BSP leader joining a school of politicians which once in a while borrows from Sanjay Gandhi’s book of settling scores.

The 73-year-old farmer leader, who had yesterday dared the chief minister to arrest him, was taken into custody and then released on bail.

Tikait faces charges under Section 3 of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Those found guilty under the legislation can be imprisoned for up to five years.

Mayavati had ordered Tikait’s arrest on Sunday after he called her a “chamreen” — a casteist slur — at a televised rally.

Human rights activists said scores of cases of atrocities against Dalits, much graver than abuse, are pending in courts. “The case against Tikait is more of a political fight than a legal one,” said Srikant Lal, a senior advocate in Lucknow.

Tikait emerges from Bijnore court after getting bail. (PTI)

In ordering Tikait’s arrest, Mayavati has followed in the footsteps of Sanjay Gandhi who used the state machinery to settle personal scores instead of taking legal recourse. Sanjay Gandhi, who died in a plane crash in 1980, had used government agencies to get even with those even mildly critical of the Congress or the Gandhi family.

The streak of intolerance transcends party lines. Opponents of Jayalalithaa and her ADMK have often faced the heat for criticising her. The CPM also has not been innocent of strong-arm tactics, with former chief minister Jyoti Basu ordering the arrest of a young entrepreneur, Shamit Khemka, in 1999 for hosting a website that was critical of him and his son.

Questions had been raised about the move as Basu could have slapped a defamation case against Khemka and fought it out in court, but instead chose to put the young man behind bars.

Tikait could have faced a similar fate but his supporters struck a deal with the government that their leader would surrender provided he was released on bail.

The police had surrounded his village Sisauli in Muzaffarnagar district since Sunday night, but could not move in as thousands of stone-carrying farmers formed a security cordon around Tikait.

Tension peaked last night as the number of securitymen swelled to 8,000. The villagers had armed themselves with petrol bombs, bricks and arrows. Fearing the situation could snowball, Tikait and some supporters sneaked out a little after midnight. The old man, clad in dhoti and kurta, Gandhian cap in place, trudged around 10km and then drove to reach Muzaffarnagar, 35km away, where his son lives.

Tikait tried to appease Mayavati by describing her as his “daughter”. “My remark was a horrible mistake. I withdraw the statement and I am ready to apologise,” he said in a statement. But Mayavati said Tikait would have to surrender if he wanted bail.

Tikait had no choice but to allow himself to be arrested. He was produced before a Bijnore court and granted bail.

Mayavati said her government was committed to enforcing the law. “That he committed the offence is evident from the way he apologised. We have sent him to court. That was my government’s duty. Now the law will take its course,” she said.