What happened on Friday: In recent times,the Congress has been seeking a Parliamentary debate on rising prices and unemployment. For some reason or the other, the debate has been deferred, MPs suspended for unruly behaviour on the floor, Opposition voice muffled by ruling party’s chants and /or an inconclusive banter with no clear point having emerged.
On Friday, Rahul Gandhi called for a Congress nationwide protest by Congress to denounce the “death of democracy,” rising inflation and unemployment. Among other issues, the INC also voiced its resentment over governmental agencies like the ED and I-T being used to silence dissent. It is significant to note that in the past weeks, the Gandhis have been called in for grilling by the ED and on Wednesday, the contentious and still under probe, Young India office, was sealed. Barricades were put up outside the Congress headquarters in Delhi and also outside party president Sonia Gandhi’s house, allegedly for no tenable reason.
The call for the protest was denied permission by the New Delhi Police, citing CrPC Section 144 across the district except at Jantar Mantar. A letter regarding the same was sent on Thursday to AICC general secretary KC Venugopal. Traffic police had also created diversions and roadblocks across New Delhi District, including at Akbar Road, the location of the AICC headquarters.
How did the protest span out? Over 300 protesters, including Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka were detained in Delhi. Security was tightened in several places and Section 144 was clamped down across the capital, except Jantar Mantar. Several demonstrators were also detained in Mumbai, Chandigarh among other places.
“Total 335 protesters including 65 MPs have been detained under the Delhi Police Act in order to maintain law and order in the area. The protesters tried to obstruct the police officers from performing their duties, manhandled & injured them. Appropriate legal action is being taken,” read the Delhi Police press release issued on the day.
Congress MPs, led by Rahul Gandhi, marched to the Rashtrapati Bhavan from Parliament. They were detained on way. Wearing black clothes, Congress MPs led by party chief Sonia Gandhi started a protest in the Parliament on Friday against price rise and GST hike.
A little past 12.30 pm, Priyanka Gandhi and others exited the AICC HQ and crossed the police barriers. She staged a sit-in protest on the road, and was quickly detained by women police officers. Sachin too was detained, along with a number of Congress workers who crossed the pushed-down barriers, and put into buses.
The heart of Delhi saw high drama on Friday as Congress leaders defied prohibitory orders imposed by police and took out protests against inflation, unemployment and rising prices. Several Congress workers and leaders, including Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi and Sachin Pilot, were detained and taken to Kingsway Camp police station.
“India is witnessing the death of democracy,” Rahul Gandhi said in a press conference on Friday morning. “What India has built brick by brick, starting almost a century ago, is being destroyed in front of your eyes. Anybody who stands against this idea of onset of dictatorship is viciously attacked, jailed, arrested and beaten up.”
Amid pouring rain, AICC workers pressed up against police barriers near the AICC main gate, raising slogans against mehngai and also against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the police presence, chanting: Jab jab Modi darta hai, police ko aage karta hai (When Modi is scared, he sends the police forward). Many also waved placards shaped like gas cylinders. Present on the other side of the barriers were a large number of raincoat-clad Delhi Police and Rapid Action Force personnel. Many Congress workers scaled elevated positions and climbed the barriers, raising slogans from their perches. Inside AICC headquarters, they chanted slogans alongside music.
Why were they clad in black? Black was the colour of the protest for the Congress on Friday –from kurtas and headgears to scarves and sarees— party leaders opted for black to resonate with the “grim” economic situation in the country.
Water cannons were deployed: Police used water cannons to disperse Congress protesters in Chandigarh. Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh Raja Warring led from the front to protest the rising inflation and unemployment.
What did the BJP say? Home Minister Amit Shah dubbed the protests “anti-Hindu.” In an interview which was telecast later in the day, he chose to spin the protests as a way of the Congress registering its displeasure over the Ram Janmbhoomi shilanayas anniversary. It maybe recalled PM Modi performed the shilanayas puja on Aug 5, 2020.
How did the Congress react? The grand old party’s senior leader Jairam Ramesh voiced the party’s opinion when he stated: “It is a malicious twist. This is the bogus statement of a sick mind.” Congress strongly hit out at Shah for linking the protests against price rise, unemployment and other issues to the Hindu sentiments.