UP land stir: Smoke shrouds Rahul Gandhi’s ash claim

Neha

A day after Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi escalated his fight against the Mayawati government by making the startling claim that women of Bhatta Parsaul had been raped and that there were 74 mounds with bodies inside, not one person in the two villages stepped forward to back the claim.

Some said that they had "heard of such claims" but the general refrain was: the "police beat us up".

Among the women who denied knowledge of any rape victim was Virendri Devi of Bhatta village who was in the delegation that met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Her 15-year-old daughter Khushboo has a black eye which she says is the result of police assault.

On Monday, Rahul Gandhi "facilitated" a meeting of the farmers with the Prime Minister where they showed pictures purportedly of burnt bodies, melted and burnt bones and other evidence of "police repression" against villagers seeking higher compensation for land acquired by the state.

Asked about the rape-and-bones claim, Virendri Devi today told The Indian Express that one of the villagers — there were three from Bhatta and five from Parsaul — had told the Prime Minister about the bones, but she had not.

She said that some women were beaten by police. "They came to our house, they were abusive. My daughter was beaten up. I have heard women were raped but I do not know of any such victim," Virendri Devi said.

"Rahul arranged for our stay at a bungalow. We were served four vegetables, raita, salad and desserts. For two days, I felt I was in heaven. I even told him to spare us a room in his house but he only laughed. We felt we were talking to our brother," Virendri Devi said.

Gandhi's claims on Monday prompted the district administration to collect samples from the mounds the Congress leader referred to. These samples were sent to the state Forensic Science Laboratory in Agra. Additional District Magistrate (Land and Acquisition) O P Arya said that villagers were part of the team that went to collect the samples.

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