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Rap on Rita, 'lawless' warning for Maya UP Cong chief in jail after remark

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By TAPAS CHAKRABORTY in Lucknow
  • Published 17.07.09
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Lucknow, July 16: A chance derogatory remark by Uttar Pradesh Congress chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi against chief minister Mayavati has stoked a volcano of violence and retribution against the Dalit leader’s “upper caste tormentors”, landing Joshi in jail while her house was ransacked and set ablaze.

By the time state Congress leaders cleared the wreckage of burnt cars and furniture this morning, a court in Moradabad had sent Joshi to judicial remand for 14 days. Her plea for interim bail was denied.

Joshi, 59, was taken into custody late last night when she was on her way to Delhi and proceeding to catch a chartered plane at Ghaziabad.

Joshi, the daughter of former chief minister H.N. Bahuguna, was arrested under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989, for allegedly making derogatory remarks about Mayavati yesterday at a rally in Moradabad.

The state Congress chief was campaigning against the way Mayavati was distributing money to Dalit rape victims, saying the compensation amount of Rs 25,000 was not enough to protect their dignity.

In an apparently off-the-cuff remark yesterday afternoon, Joshi reportedly said: “The Dalit women should throw the money back at Mayavati’s face. The money is too little and the police officer who comes in a helicopter to pay the amount is spending more. When Mayavati gets raped, I will pay her Rs 1 crore.”

The electronic media beamed footage of her speech since late last night yesterday, prompting Mayavati to swing into action.

“The indecent remarks were meant to humiliate the Dalit woman chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. These remarks are unpardonable. I am surprised that AICC president Sonia Gandhi is keeping mum,” Mayavati said in Lucknow this afternoon.

In Delhi, Congress general secretary Janardhan Dwivedi said Sonia had expressed “deep pain and anguish” over what has happened in UP.

Mayavati claimed that the act under which she was giving financial compensation to the Dalit rape victims had been enacted by the Centre. “It is strange that a woman Congress leader is criticising me for doing what her party’s government at the Centre wants every chief minister to do,” she said.

Joshi had clarified yesterday to reporters in Moradabad that she had simply sought to draw the people’s attention to the fact that Mayavati’s dole of Rs 25,000 to every Dalit rape victim “was quite ironical as the state police chief was spending lakhs on the helicopter ride that he undertakes to hand over that paltry amount to the victim”.

“My intention was to remind Mayavati that being a woman she should realise that a paltry monetary compensation cannot make up for what a woman loses on account of rape,” Joshi told yesterday by way of explanation.

But the clarification did not calm the enraged BSP supporters, who are battling a resurgent Congress in the state. A little past midnight last night, recalled Joshi’s maid Munni Devi, 51, an armed gang of masked men raided the house, located a stone’s throw away from the high security state secretariat area of Lucknow. The men were said to be hurling invectives at Joshi and shouting slogans in Mayavati’s favour.

Armed with iron rods, sticks and petrol cans, the men smashed what they could lay their hands on before sprinkling petrol and throwing a matchstick to set the house afire, the maid said. As the fire raged, the police looked on, she alleged.

Local residents identified the leader who was leading the attack as Jitendra Singh alias Bablu Singh, a Bahujan Samaj Party MLA.

Mayavati, however, insisted that the “attackers did not belong to my party though the Congress has linked them to us”.

Additional director-general of police Brij Lal said five persons had been arrested for the violence and their party antecedents, if any, were being investigated.