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Rahul Gandhi Hathras visit: Why is he not visiting the kin of hooch tragedy victims in Tamil Nadu and Sandeshkhali victims in West Bengal?

Gandhi, who has been glorified by hangers-on and sycophantic Congress leaders as 'Jannayak' of late, is yet to weigh in on the Tamil Nadu hooch tragedy and the Sandeshkhali violence in West Bengal—incidents that have occurred in two states that are ruled by INDI alliance partners, DMK and TMC.

On Friday, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi visited Hathras in Uttar Pradesh and met with the families affected by the stampede tragedy. Among those he spoke with was the family of Premawati, a victim of the incident, who shared their grievances with the Congress MP from Rae Bareli.

The family demanded an investigation into the tragic event that resulted in the deaths of over 120 people. They also stated that they no longer believe in the self-styled Godman ‘Bhole Baba’ and have removed his photo.

Earlier, Rahul Gandhi visited Aligarh, where he met with other families affected by the Hathras stampede.

On Tuesday, July 2, a stampede at a private religious event in Hathras claimed 121 lives, leaving many others injured. The stampede took place during a Satsang for Sant Bhole Baba. Most of the dead in the tragedy are women.

A religious congregation was organised at Phulrai village in the district in which a large number of devotees were present. There was a stampede at the end of the congregation when hundreds of devotees tried to leave the venue together leading to a stampede.

The venue was small and overcrowded. Because of the suffocation in small areas in hot and humid weather, the devotees rushed out as soon as the Satsang ended, leading to the stampede.

While Rahul wasted little time visiting the towns and expressing his sympathy for the victims and the kin of the deceased, he has yet not even acknowledged the Kallakurchi hooch tragedy in Tamil Nadu that claimed 65 lives thus far, mostly Dalits, let alone visiting the village and meeting with the relatives of the victims. 

The death toll in the hooch tragedy in Tamil Nadu’s Kallakurichi district has risen to 65 thus far, with more than 225 people affected by the consumption of spurious liquor. The tragedy occurred on June 18, Tuesday, when most of the victims consumed the tainted liquor in Karunapuram, Kallakurichi. 

By Wednesday, they were admitted to the Kallakurichi Government Medical College and Hospital, as well as hospitals in Salem, Villupuram, and the Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research in Puducherry. Several victims passed away on Wednesday night. And since then, many have died, taking the death toll to 65. 

Gandhi, who has upped his social media game significantly and is quick to raise issues of social import and has projected himself, with the help of a pliant ecosystem, as the voice of the marginalised and the lower caste, is silent on the deaths of 65 people, most Dalits, in Tamil Nadu, a state governed by INDI alliance partner DMK. Gandhi didn’t express his commiserations for the kin of the dead or hold the administration responsible for the sale of spurious liquor in the state that caused the tragedy.

Various combinations of Tamil Nadu hooch tragedy and spurious liquor consumption in Tamil Nadu for posts made by Rahul Gandhi X have yielded a blank result.

Rahul Gandhi is yet to tweet on Tamil Nadu hooch tragedy

Known for his constant refrain ‘Daro mat’ as a means to malign the Modi government, Rahul Gandhi has not spoken yet on the Sandeshkhali horrors emanating from West Bengal, another state that is ruled by an opposition party, TMC, whose supreme Mamata Banerjee has had a vacillating relationship with the INDI alliance. 

Known for his constant refrain ‘Daro mat’ as a means to malign the Modi government, Rahul Gandhi has not spoken yet on the Sandeshkhali horrors emanating from West Bengal. The issue cropped up in February this year, months before the all-important Lok Sabha polls, when Congress had been desperately trying to woo Mamata Banerjee to join the INDI alliance for their collective goal of ousting PM Modi. 

Protests erupted in West Bengal on February 8th as hundreds of women residents of Sandeshkhali came out on the streets on Thursday with brooms, sticks and farming tools and blocked the roads. They are demanding the arrest of Sheikh Shahjahan and his two aides Shiba Prasad Hazra and Uttam Sardar, whom they have accused of making their lives miserable.

Hindustan Times quoted Archana Naskar, a Sandeshkhali resident, saying that Sardar and Hazra usurped hundreds of acres of farmland over the last few years to run their fisheries. “They deprived people of homes under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana and did not give us the money under the MGNREGS (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme),” Naskar alleged.

“Besides, land grabbing, they also forced the villagers to provide free labour in the businesses run by them. The women of the area were unable to step out of their homes after sunset because of the fear of molestation by Shahjahan’s associates,” another woman protester said.

However, these protestations failed to stir the conscience of the ‘Jannayak’ as the Congress party leaders fawn over him of late, to take cognisance of the grave allegations levelled by women in Sandeshkhali and demand a fair probe into the matter from the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC government in West Bengal. All the claims and promises of empowering women and ensuring their safety turned out to be empty rhetoric, serving no purpose other than gaining women’s support and acting as a public relations exercise.

Rahul Gandhi is yet to tweet on Sandeshkhali violence

Nevertheless, Gandhi’s unwillingness to raise his voice on the Tamil Nadu hooch tragedy and Sandeshkhali violence seems to be the coalition compulsion his party faces. It is the price that Congress has to pay to keep the INDI alliance from disintegrating, even if that means remaining silent on grave issues such as atrocities meted out on women in West Bengal or poor victims who died after consuming spurious liquor in Tamil Nadu.

Additionally, the lofty posturing of caring for the victims of tragedies that is conveniently confined only to the BJP-ruled states could be used as a stick to proverbially beat the BJP-led governments and show them in a poor light while deflecting attention from the governance inadequacies of the INDI alliance partners and providing a cover fire for their fiasco.

Even as Gandhi and his lapdog media are predisposed to exaggerating Congress’ 99 seats in Lok Sabha as a significant number to influence Indian politics, the Gandhi scion’s conduct reveals he is still helpless when it comes to raising issues of public importance when they take place in states ruled by INDI alliance partners. 

Gandhi’s deafening silence on water crisis in Karnataka, his disregard for atrocities suffered by Sandeshkhali victims, and his refusal so much as to even acknowledge the Tamil Nadu hooch tragedy shows all this display of solidarity for victims is just a sham aimed at shoring up his political fortunes and little to do with genuine sympathy and concern for the victims.

If Rahul Gandhi speaks up for the victims of political violence in West Bengal or visits the families affected by the Tamil Nadu hooch tragedy, it can be assumed with reasonable certitude that the INDI alliance will be nearing its final days. This symbiotic relationship between various members of the INDI bloc to not raise tough questions of each other seems to be the foundation on which the alliance rests.

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Amit Kelkar
Amit Kelkar
a Pune based IT professional with keen interest in politics

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