In a show of solidarity for embattled senior Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan, hundreds of party members took to the streets in Rampur on Thursday. They were responding to a call given by party president Akhilesh Yadav. He had appealed to the party cadre to support Mr. Khan and his MLA son Abdullah Azam in what he described as a “witch-hunt” by the Yogi Adityanath government.District borders sealedThe district administration responded by sealing the borders of the district. Mr. Abdullah and around 200 supporters were detained — the second time in two days for the legislator — for obstructing the work of officials on duty. “Section 144 was in place because of Kanwar Yatra and the upcoming Bakri Id. Those who tried to break the law were arrested,” said A.K. Singh, District Magistrate, Rampur. While Mr. Yadav termed the police action as “undemocratic”, Mr. Abdullah criticised the district administration for being selective in using Section 144. “When the BJP people burnt the effigy of my father, the administration didn’t take any action,” he said.On the charge of the administration targeting the Rampur MP because of political reasons, Mr. Singh said he was being investigated because of the cases filed against him. “Action will be taken only on the basis of evidence.”Twenty eight FIRs have been filed against Mr. Khan with charges of grabbing the land of farmers and madrasas for Mohammad Ali Jauhar University. The police have also charged him for stealing books and rare manuscripts from Aaliya Madrasa. Leaders detainedThe SP top brass is seeing the action as politically motivated. On Thursday, Dr S.T. Hasan, party MP from the neighbouring Moradabad and senior leader Dharmendra Yadav also tried to enter Rampur but were detained by the police. Masood Hasan, student leader and the Moradabad MP’s son who was leading a bunch of protesters, described the police action as “unconstitutional”. “Peaceful protest is our democratic right. The BJP government is trying to divert attention from Unnao case where its own partyman is involved in a heinous crime. The land issue is already in court and will be resolved in due course. As for books, our sources say the police had planted them in the university,” he alleged.By evening, the police allowed the leaders to go home and the protesters were waiting for further orders from the leadership.