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Preventive arrest: Rahul Gandhi, Digvijay Singh detained in Greater Noida

File photo of AICC General Secretary Rahul Gandhi.
File photo of AICC General Secretary Rahul Gandhi.

Congress General Secretaries Rahul Gandhi and Digvijaya Singh and Uttar Pradesh Congress president Rita Bahuguna Joshi were taken into preventive custody tonight by the Uttar Pradesh police from Bhatta Parsaul village in Gautam Buddha Nagar near Delhi.

The Congress MP from Ferozabad, actor-turned politician Raj Babbar, was also among those detained.

They were apprehended under Section 151 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) on apprehension of breach of peace, an official spokesperson said.

The leaders will be kept at the Guest House tonight and produced before the sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) tomorrow morning.

Meanwhile, the ban order under Sec 144 which was lifted at midnight last night, was reimposed, Inspector General of Police (Meerut Zone) Rajni Kant Mishra said.

Earlier in the day, Mr Gandhi had sneaked into Bhatta-Parsaul village in Greater Noida and sat on a protest along with the villagers agitating against the ongoing land acquisition.

Mr Gandhi, who reached the village on a motorcycle in the early hours without informing the UP government, sat on "dharna" at the village and announced he would remain there till his three demands were conceded by the Uttar Pradesh government.

The demands included a judicial probe into Saturday's violence in which four people, including two policemen, were killed in the village while the District Magistrate (DM) had received bullet injuries, prior permission from the farmers to acquire their land and no action on the farmers involved in the agitation.

Mr Gandhi, incidentally, was the first political leader to reach here after the May 7 violence.

The state government had clamped a ban order under section 144 of IPC and had prevented Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) leader Ajit Singh, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders Rajnath Singh and Kalraj Mishra, Janata Dal (United) chief Sharad Yadav and Samajwadi Party leader Shiv Pal Singh Yadav from entering Bhatta-Parsaul since then.

Promptly after the "silent" entry of Mr Gandhi, the district administration of Gautam Buddha Nagar (Noida) said the ban order had been lifted . "In fact, the section 144 was lifted at 1200 hrs last night," the officiating District Magistrate Sheetal Verma said.

"The Congress is entirely with the farmers and would fight for their cause as the acquistion policy in UP was anti-farmer," Mr Gandhi announced while sitting on dharna.

On May 7, violence had erupted at Bhatta-Parsaul villages in Greater Noida after police used force to free three UP State Road Tranpsort Corporation (UPSRTC) employees, who were held hostage by the villagers, agitated over land acquisition by three authorities of Noida, Greater Noida and Yamuna Expressway.

In the action, two policemen and two villagers were killed in cross firing while the District Magistrate received bullet injuries. Several other officials were also injured in the violence.

However, the state government claimed that criminals were behind the violence and even announced a reward of Rs 50,000 on farmer leader Manveer Singh Tewatiya, who led the agitation for the past four months.

Mr Gandhi, riding pillion on a motorbike, had reached the village after leaving his carcade about four kms away from Bhatta-Parsaul. As the information reached the authorities, they sprung into action but the Congress MP from Amethi ha begun his protest by then.

The Sub-Divisional Magistrate(SDM) concerned tried to pacify the Congress leaders, but they refused to pay heed to him saying they just wanted that the government should consider their demands immediately.

Mr Gandhi assured the farmers that he will convey the report about police atrocities on the villagers to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

He said he was shocked at the complaints he received from the villagers, specially the women. Some of them even informed him about their missing family members.

The Uttar Pradesh government reacted sharply to his Noida visit along with other Congress leaders, including Mr Digvijaya Singh.

"This is an effort to incite the farmers, when the situation has become normal," an official government spokesman said.

He also said that the UP government would lodge a protest with the Union government on the sudden visit of a Special Protection Group (SPG) protectee without informing the state government. "This visit is violation of the security norms of a VVIP leader," the sources said.

Ms Joshi, on the other hand, defended the leader's action saying his visit was required at a time when the farmers were subjected to improper treatment at the hands of the state government.

Meanwhile, the UP police was still on a look-out for the farmers' leader Manveer Singh Tewatia and others who were declared "criminals'.

Mr Tewatia had met the Prime Minister last year along with Mr Gandhi and Digvijay Singh over the issue of illegal land acquisition of the farmers' land.

NNN

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