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Rahul Gandhi detained, manhandled

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BY S VENKAT NARAYAN

Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, October 1:

Rahul Gandhi, former President of India’s opposition Congress Party was hit with a lathi and fell to the ground in a pushback by the Uttar Pradesh police after he, his sister Priyanka Gandhi and scores of party workers were stopped on the Delhi-Noida highway. They were going to Hathras to meet the family of a 19-year-old Dalit woman, who died in a Delhi hospital after being gang-raped earlier this week.

The two leaders have been detained. However, the Congress alleges that the Gandhis have been arrested. The police stopped the Gandhis, citing imposition of Section 144, which prohibits assembly of four or more people.

Pictures from the scene showed Rahul Gandhi being held back by the cops, in one of the photographs, he is seen taking a tumble while a policeman is holding on to the leader’s kurta to stop him from falling. In the next one, the Congress leader is on the ground. The party workers and his security men quickly gathered around to help shore him up.

Gandhi said he would peacefully march alone to Hathras as that would not be in violation of Section 144 that prohibits public assembly. He demanded to know under which law he was being stopped.

“I am standing here peacefully. I want to march alone to Hathras. Section 144 talks about public assembly. I will go alone to Hathras. On what basis are you detaining me?” Gandhi asked the cops present on the scene.

The Uttar Pradesh Congress has called for a state-wide protest against the police action on Gandhis.

“The cowardly UP Govt has arrested Shri @RahulGandhi & Smt @PriyankaGandhi for seeking justice & trying to meet the bereaved Hathras victim’s family. I appeal to all PCCs and @INCIndia workers to protest today against the arrest of Rahul ji, Priyanka ji & other party leaders,” tweeted Congress general secretary KC Venugopal.

Earlier in the day, Congress workers milled around the two leaders as Rahul Gandhi, his face mask on, led the march, with Priyanka, who was recently retained as general secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh, right behind him.

Scores of reporters and people were seen clicking pictures of the two leaders as they went about their padyatra under the October sun.

The 19-year-old Dalit woman, who died in a Delhi hospital on Tuesday a fortnight after she was gang-raped at Hathras while she was out to collect fodder with her mother, was cremated in the early hours of Wednesday, with her family alleging the local police forced them to conduct the last rites in the dead of the night.

Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi urged the opposition to not increase the tension through “political tourism”, and said the state government is working to punish the criminals for their “barbarism”. The minister, however, did not name any party.

Members of Dalit groups and activists alleged that the early morning cremation was done to prevent any mobilisation or protests in the village. “The whole world is watching how the government and the police together cremated our sister in the absence of her family. I have been taken into custody and put under house arrest in Saharanpur; but we will continue to fight,” said Chandrasekhar Azad, chief of the Bhim Army, who had led protests outside Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital on Tuesday.

Amid nationwide outrage and calls for his resignation, state Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Wednesday spoke to the family via video-link. The chief minister has said a fast-track court will handle the case for speedy justice. The special investigation team has been constituted to probe the matter and asked to submit its report within seven days.

“The CM has spoken to the father of the deceased woman of Hathras. Her father asked for harshest penalty against the accused. The CM assured him that the most stringent action shall be taken against the accused and all possible help shall be provided to the family of the deceased,” Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Awanish Kumar Awasthi said yesterday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also spoke to the CM and asked him to ensure strict action against the accused.

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Special COVID-19 probe crippled by infections among CCD sleuths: AG calls for new police team

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Brandix Apparel Limited yesterday (29) said that the company would fully cooperate with relevant authorities in the investigation ordered by the Attorney General (AG). A spokesperson for the company said so when The Island sought a clarification with regard to AG Dappula de Livera, PC, directing the police to launch a criminal investigation into the alleged lapses on the part of the company as well as those officials leading to the devastating COVID-19 outbreak.

The Minuwangoda eruption, which happened in the first week of October is widely believed to be the cause of the fast expanding Peliyagoda cluster.

Asked whether the police had contacted the Brandix management as regards the investigation and sought access to Brandix management and workers at its Minuwangoda apparel manufacturing facility as well as records at the Minuwangoda facility, the spokesperson said: “We will work with the relevant authorities in this regard”.

The Colombo Crime Division (CCD) tasked with the probe has suffered a serious setback due to a section of its officers being tested positive for COVID-19. Authoritative sources said that the CCD lacked sufficient strength to carry out the investigation.

AG de Livera early this week told DIG Ajith Rohana that a progress report should be submitted to him by or before Nov. 13.

Sources said that the badly depleted CCD was not in a position to conduct the high-profile investigation, in addition to other ongoing inquiries. The AG has directed the Acting IGP to constitute a special team of law enforcement officers to conduct the investigation. Sources acknowledged the urgent need for a thorough inquiry into the far worse second corona wave. Sources said that the AG issued fresh instructions in that regard after the crisis in the CCD was brought to his notice.

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Most garment workers under self-quarantine left to fend for themselves

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

A large number of garment workers who were undergoing self-quarantine in Minuwangoda did not receive any assistance, Chamila Thushari of the Dabindu Collective, a labour organisation that works with garment workers, told The Island yesterday.

She said that those who were under self-quarantine did not have money to purchase food and even those who were willing to help could not reach them.

“Some of them have received food parcels from their work places but that is not adequate. Most others have not received any assistance. Matters will only get worse after curfew is imposed throughout the Western Province,” Thushari said.

Most of these workers are undergoing self-quarantine at their boarding places, which also house individuals who still work in garment factories. “Although there is a curfew, they can go to work. These are perfect incubators for the virus,” she said.

Thushari said that every day between 20-30 workers under self-quarantine, tested positive for COVID-19.

There were no public health inspectors to monitor the boarding houses of garment workers to ensure that COVID-19 prevention measures were being followed, she said.

“Not even Grama Niladaris visit them,” Chamila said.

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SJB requests separate seats for its dissidents

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Chief Opposition Whip and Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella has written to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena requesting him to make arrangements to provide separate seats to the nine MPs who had voted with the government for the 20th Amendment to the Constitution recently.

The letter dated yesterday said that the SJB parliamentary group had decided to expel MPs Diana Gamage, A. Aravind Kumar, Ishak Rahuman, Faisal Cassim, H. M. M. Haris, M.S. Thowfeeq, Nazeer Ahmed, A.A.S.M. Raheem and S.M.M. Musharaf and it requests the Speaker to make separate seating arrangements for these MPs in the Chamber.

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