The 41-year-old AICC general secretary is on the second day of his padayatra--''Kisan Sandesh Yatra''-- in Western UP, a footmarch billed as a campaign against Chief Minister Mayawati ahead of the Congress'' proposed ''kisan mahapanchayat'' in the neighbouring Aligarh district on July 9.
After trudging around 25 kms on foot in the dusty tracks of rural areas yesterday covering five villages, Rahul took a halt at Rampur Bangar village in Gautam Budh Nagar district last night where he stayed at the house of former village head Kalicharan Sharma. He also had dinner with the Sharma family and preferred to sleep on a cot on the terrace.
The Congress leader resumed his yatra at 6.20 am and visited Sabautajafrabad and Alawalpur villages.
"At both the places he held chaupal with the villagers and enquired about their problems and issues," UPCC spokesman Akhilesh Pratap Singh said.
Throwing a fresh challenge to Mayawati, Rahul on Tuesday reached Bhatta-Parsaul for the second time to kickstart his foot march nearly two months after his visit to the twin villages, the epicentre of farmers'' protests that had led to his midnight arrest.
Addressing a chaupal(informal assembly) in one of the villages, Rahul said the magnitude in which land was being acquired in UP was not happening anywhere else in the country.
"It's ok if the land is being acquired for road. Roads should be constructed and development must take place, but here land is being taken for colony," he said.
He said that farmers, whose land is being acquired, come to know when the process is already over.
"This is not being said by one person, but thousands. People were killed in Bhatta Parsaul, but it was said that nothing happened. People were killed in Tappal. Your voice must be heard against the wrong doing," he said.
He said that the Centre was bringing a bill on the land acquisition and it would be done properly.
The Congress leader said the Uttar Pradesh Government came up with a new policy on land acquisition after farmers protested against acquiring land.
"But the new policy is not being used where it should be," he told the villagers.
Rahul said when "rich people sell their lands in Delhi, they get high market value. But, here land is being taken forcibly from farmers. While the market rate is above Rs 1,000, you are getting only Rs 200." He said the farmers, whose land is being acquired by the Uttar Pradesh Government, are not aware why their properties are being taken away.
"I have been asking the people why your land is being taken away. They say that they are not aware...when somebody commits robbery in bank, the police catches the culprit. But here your land is being robbed and police are firing at you," he said.
He asked the farmers and people to share their stories with him, saying he has come to them to hear their version of the story.