Rahul Gandhi arrested over land conflict

NEW DELHI Thu May 12, 2011 2:30pm IST

Rahul Gandhi (R), Member of Parliament and son of ruling Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi, gestures to a villager during his visit to Parsaul village after Saturday's clash between farmers and police in Gautam Buddha Nagar district of Uttar Pradesh May 11, 2011. REUTERS/Parivartan Sharma

Rahul Gandhi (R), Member of Parliament and son of ruling Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi, gestures to a villager during his visit to Parsaul village after Saturday's clash between farmers and police in Gautam Buddha Nagar district of Uttar Pradesh May 11, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Parivartan Sharma

Related Topics

Rajalakshmi (C), 28, smiles after winning the Miss Wheelchair India beauty pageant in Mumbai November 26, 2014. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Miss Wheelchair India

Seven women from across India participated in the country's second wheelchair beauty pageant, which aims to open doors for the wheelchair-bound in modelling, film and television, according to organisers  Slideshow 

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Rahul Gandhi, the heir-apparent of Congress party, was briefly arrested after he joined farmers protesting against land being taken over for a $2 billion highway, underscoring how land disputes are emerging as a political issue.

Gandhi, seen as a prime minister-in-waiting, was held late Wednesday for two hours under preventive detention laws in Uttar Pradesh before being bailed and escorted by police to New Delhi, sparking off more protests.

Gandhi had abandoned his security detail and rode pillion on a motorcycle to Bhatta Parsaul village, where a week-long agitation against the highway Agra has intensified after police shot dead two protesters.

NDTV reported on its website that farmers were paid a little over 800 rupees ($18) per square metre for the land on which six townships are to be built alongside the highway. That same land was sold to developers for 3,200 rupees a square metre and resold as residential plots for 14,000 rupees a square metre.

"I feel ashamed to call myself Indian after seeing what has happened here. The (state) government here has unleashed atrocities on its own people," Gandhi said at the protest site.

Congress supporters across cities in Uttar Pradesh held demonstrations on Thursday against Gandhi's arrest and scores were detained as they blocked roads and railway lines, underscoring how the issue could spiral.

Ahead of a 2014 general election, the left-of-centre Congress is increasingly taking the side of farmers and others whose lands have been taken over for the highways, utilities and factories needed to power India's near 9 percent growth.

Gandhi has set his sights on resurrecting Congress in time for state polls next year, pitting him against Mayawati, the fiery chief minister.

A POLITICAL FOOTBALL

Congress hopes to tap into farmers' discontent, intensified by rising income inequalities between cities and villages, to strengthen Congress and shed its dependence on fickle allies to rule in New Delhi.

Land conflicts have the potential of unseating governments, especially since colonial era laws allow the state to take over land without compensation to owners.

A 34-year-old Communist rule in West Bengal state looks set to end as voters punish it for a badly implemented plan to seize land to rapidly industrialise the state.

"Land has been the most contentious issues without a resolution. As something that can be exploited for political gains, land presents an opportunity," said Abheek Baruah, chief economist at HDFC Bank.

Uttar Pradesh is key to controlling power in New Delhi, as it is India's most populous state, sending the largest block of lawmakers to parliament, but Congress is a minor player there.

"They (Congress) are seeking an opportunity to re-enter Uttar Pradesh.But I don't see any great resurgence there (and) they are feeling desperate," said Sudha Pai, professor of politics at New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University.

The protests in Uttar Pradesh are the latest in a series across India over attempts to acquire land for industry, which have delayed multi-billion dollar investment plans by firms like ArcelorMittal and Tata Steel.

Such protests forced the government in August to scrap Vedanta Resources' plans to mine bauxite from land held sacred by indigenous people in Orissa.

Gandhi had visited Orissa days after the project was killed, hailing the victory for the protesters and promising them he would be their voice in the corridors of power in New Delhi.

(Additional reporting Alka Pande in LUCKNOW; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

FILED UNDER:

Reuters Showcase

Kashmir Attack

Kashmir Attack

Ten dead in Kashmir's worst militant attack in more than a year.  Full Article 

New Twist

New Twist

CBI says girls found hanging from tree in Badaun killed themselves.  Full Article 

Bird Flu Strain

Bird Flu Strain

Bird flu outbreak in India caused by strain humans can contract - OIE.  Full Article 

Cricketing Tragedy

Cricketing Tragedy

A sport left heartbroken by death of Hughes  Full Article 

Reuters Poll

Reuters Poll

GDP growth to slow to 5.1 pct, but no rate cut yet - Reuters Poll.  Full Article 

Racial Unrest

Racial Unrest

Protests in Ferguson, elsewhere dwindle after two nights of unrest.  Full Article 

Suicide Blast

Suicide Blast

Suicide bomber kills five in attack on British embassy car in Kabul - officials.  Full Article 

A Minute With: Nandita Das

A Minute With: Nandita Das

A telephone interview with actress Nandita Das.  Full Article 

Jamini Roy

Jamini Roy

Photo Gallery – Bengali household name Jamini Roy’s paintings  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage