'Common people's safety more important': Priyanka Gandhi downplays alleged security breach on UP visit; CRPF alleges Congress leader violated protocol

  • Addressing the media on Monday, two days after her visit to the families of those affected by the violence that erupted alongside the protests in the state, said that the issue of her safety was a 'very small one'

  • She hit out Adityanath, saying that there is no place for violence or 'revenge' in the country

  • Earlier, the CRPF said that it was not an easy task to protect senior political leaders such as Priyanka, if they are unmindful of their own security

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra downplayed the row over an alleged security breach by CRPF personnel on a four-day visit to Uttar Pradesh, and slammed the Yogi Adityanath government and state police for "illegal" investigations into citizens protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act.

Addressing the media on Monday, two days after her visit to the families of those affected by the violence that erupted alongside the protests in the state, she said that the issue of her safety was a "very small one" and that the safety of the state and its people was the paramount concern.

She hit out at Adityanath, saying that there is no place for violence or "revenge" in the country. In a jibe at the chief minister for his statement that those who had damaged public assets would be taken to task, Priyanka said there was no place for concepts like violence and revenge in the "idea of India". "It’s probably the first time that a chief minister has made such a statement against the citizens. The saffron colour belongs to India and not just to BJP," she said.

Referring to her allegation on Saturday that the state police had "manhandled and strangulated" her, Priyanka said, "The question of my safety is a very small one, right now the safety of the state and its people is important." The Uttar Pradesh Police has denied allegations that its personnel tried to manhandle the Congress leader.

Priyanka also accused the state government and police of "spreading anarchy" in the state, and said that the party had written to the governor over the authorities' "illegal" actions.

Priyanka also gave details on the deaths of a 21-year-old and 22-year-old in Uttar Pradesh's Bijnor, who succumbed to bullet injuries during anti-CAA protests in the city. Her press conference came soon after the CRPF's statement accusing the Congress general secretary of violating security protocol in Lucknow.

Earlier on Monday, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the central agency in charge of Priyanka's Z+ security, said that it was not an easy task to protect senior political leaders such as Priyanka if they are unmindful of their own security. The protectees who are provided special security cover like Z+ must inform the paramilitary force about their exact movements, otherwise it becomes difficult to manage, the force said.

After the removal of the elite security cover, the Special Protection Group (SPG), the CRPF took over the security of Priyanka under Z+ security from 5 November.

PK Singh, inspector general (Intelligence and VS), CRPF in an official statement, while responding to the allegations of Priyanka and the Congress, said, “There was no breach in security by the (CRPF) official. Despite security constraints, appropriate security cover was provided by CRPF during the visit (of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra). Such security violations are communicated to the protectee and advised for ensuring security arrangements.”

What happened on 28 December?

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was in Lucknow on Saturday, 28 December to participate in the Congress Foundation day function at Pradesh Congress Committee office.

According to reports and the statement of the CRPF, Priyanka defied prohibitory orders and deviated from her scheduled route to meet the kin of jailed former IPS officer SR Darapuri, who was arrested after protests in Lucknow over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

After attending the Foundation Day programme, Priyanka left for Darapuri’s place. Instead of going by her designated BR vehicle, she rode on the pillion seat of a scooter and walked 2.5 km to reach Darapuri’s residence.

In between, the police tried to stop her from reaching her destination. Her cavalcade was intercepted.

The Uttar Pradesh Police had alleged that she defied prohibitory orders and breached her security cover. The police also lodged an official complaint on the breach of security.

“Police strangulated and manhandled me,” Priyanka had later alleged.

All India Mahila Congress Committee president, Sushmita Dev said, “She (Priyanka) felt it was her duty to meet the family of the people who were affected, victimised, brutally treated by the Uttar Pradesh police in a manner worse than how criminals are treated. It’s extremely unfortunate the way she was stopped and manhandled. We want action against Adityanath for behaving in this manner and for the Uttar Pradesh police – the officer should be suspended and removed.”

CRPF's version

In response to the alleged security violation, CRPF in its official statement said today: "Tour programme of Smt Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Z+ category ASL Central Category (CRPF Protectee) to visit Lucknow on 27/28-12-2019 was received and communicated to state authorities.

On 28 December 2019, the only programme indicated was to visit PCC office for attending Congress Foundation day function for which ASL (advance security liason) had been conducted. On 28 December Abhay Mishra, CO (Hazratganj) at around 0800 hrs visited the place of stay to inquire about the detailed programme of the day of the protectee (Priyanka) which wasn’t communicated by the personal staff. There was no breach in security by the official.

Regarding the sequence of events on 28 December, the following security violations had occurred:

  1. Unscheduled movement of the protectee without intimation as such ASL couldn’t be conducted.
  2. During travelling the protectee used non-BR civil vehicle without PSO.
  3. The protectee took a lift on scooty as a pillion rider.

Despite this security constraint appropriate security cover was provided by the CRPF during the visit. Such security violations are communicated to the protectee and advised for ensuring security arrangements."

Security violation: Not for the first time

This isn’t the first time that the members of the Gandhi family have made security violations. Priyanka, along with her mother and Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her brother Rahul Gandhi, was an SPG protectee until 4 November. After that, the government withdrew their SPG protection and provided them with Z+ security, which is under the CRPF commandos.

Even in the past, the SPG proctectees had violated or breached security cover on several occasions.

Rahul Gandhi, during a visit to Gujarat's Banaskantha on 4 August, 2017, had travelling in a non-BR (bullet resistant) car, and there was an incident of stone pelting in which an SPG PSO was injured.

The injury could have been avoided, had Rahul Gandhi used the SPG BR vehicle, a security official had said.

This matter was raised by the Congress in Parliament and the then Union home minister Rajnath Singh had made a statement in Lok Sabha wherein it was informed that Rahul did not avail SPG BR vehicles on 100 occasions out of his 121 visits between April 2015 to June 2017 within the country.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Dec 30, 2019 17:54:34 IST