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Maya jails UPCC chief
Published on 17 Jul. 2009 12:56 AM IST
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Rita Bahuguna Joshi, the Uttar Pradesh Congress chief, was arrested early Thursday for derogatory remarks against Chief Minister Mayawati and her home was set on fire, triggering a murky political battle that also paralysed parliament. Joshi was arrested in Ghaziabad, when she was going to New Delhi, in the wee hours of Thursday. Just about the same time, her house in Lucknow was attacked and torched by a mob. Joshi was charged under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, for derogatory remarks against the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief, and sent to Moradabad jail Thursday morning on 14 days’ judicial custody. Later in the evening, the Congress cautiously distanced itself from Joshi’s controversial remark, and general secretary Janardhan Dwivedi quoted Sonia Gandhi as expressing her “deep pain and anguish” over the events, including at Joshi’s remarks. At a meeting in Moradabad Wednesday, Joshi had mocked at the state director general of police flying down to Dalit rape victims in recent days and spending huge amounts to distribute compensation of Rs.25,000 to Rs.75,000 to each of them. She reportedly told the women that they should not only throw the compensation money back at the government’s face, but if this was how the rape victims were going to get justice, “tell her (Mayawati) we would give Rs.1 crore” if she faced the same trauma. Joshi Thursday clarified: “I had simply sought to draw people’s attention to the fact that Mayawati’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.” “My intention was to remind Mayawati that being a woman she should realise that a paltry monetary compensation cannot make up for what a woman loses on account of rape,” she told reporters. “As soon as I found that my statement had been twisted, I promptly made it a point to offer my apologies,” Joshi said. She termed the attack on her house as “state-sponsored terrorism”. Mayawati, however, said Joshi’s earlier remarks were “objectionable, reprehensible and highly condemnable”, and also targeted Congress president Sonia Gandhi. “The manner in which Sonia Gandhi has failed to chastise her and has chosen to remain silent arouses suspicion that whatever this woman did was on the direction of the Congress high command,” Mayawati told a press conference in Lucknow. She said BSP workers were not responsible for the attack on Joshi’s house and blamed the Congress for it, though she also ordered an inquiry into the incident. The events in the state also sparked an uproar in parliament, forcing the Lok Sabha speaker and the Rajya Sabha chairman to adjourn the houses for the day after repeated adjournments. The Congress sought to dissociate itself from the remarks, but called the assault on Joshi’s house “state-sponsored vandalism by a desperate Mayawati” after below-expectation performance in the April-May Lok Sabha elections. The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spoke in different voices. Its deputy leader in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj demanded Gandhi’s apology. But party MP from Uttar Pradesh Maneka Gandhi joined the state’s main opposition Samajwadi Party in demanding that the BSP government should be dismissed. Maneka Gandhi had vehemently criticised Mayawati when her son Varun Gandhi, now MP from Pilibhit, was booked under the National Security Act for his reported hate speeches.

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