The Gandhi siblings, Priyanka and Rahul, were among close to 300 Congress leaders and party workers released after six hours in detention as they took part in nationwide protests against price rise and unemployment on Friday.
Even as Congress activists hit the streets in black clothes, union home minister Amit Shah linked the protests to “appeasement” politics to convey Congress opposition to the laying of Ram temple foundation by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on this day in 2020. Several other BJP leaders called this an “attempt to save the Gandhi family”.
Reacting to Shah’s comments and calling it an attempt to distract people from a democratic protest, the Congress hit back saying only a “sick mind” could produce such bogus arguments and give a malicious twist to the protests. “Home Minister has made a desperate attempt to divert, distract, polarise and give a malicious twist to today’s democratic protests of @INCIndia against price rise,unemployment & GST. It’s only a sick mind which can produce such bogus arguments. Clearly the protests have hit home!” tweeted party general secretary Jairam Ramesh.
Earlier in the day, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and son Rahul led the charge in Parliament, where party MPs took out a protest march and were detained at Vijay Chowk while on their way to Rashtrapati Bhavan. Priyanka, meanwhile, jumped the barricades at the AICC headquarters in a dramatic standoff with police.
According to Delhi Police, 335 protestors, including 65 MPs, were detained. Similar actions took place against Congress leaders and workers in different parts of the country, while water cannons were used to disperse protesters in Chandigarh.
In other parts of the country, the Congress staged protests and dharnas outside Raj Bhavans while protesting MPs raised the issue in both houses of Parliament and disrupted proceedings. They then gathered outside and raised slogans against the central government, demanding a roll back in the GST hike on essential items. While Sonia Gandhi did not protest on the streets, she joined those outside parliament.
Addressing a press conference before starting his protest march, Rahul alleged that India was witnessing the “death of democracy” and anybody who raised people’s issues and stood against the onset of dictatorship was “viciously attacked”, beaten up and put in jail.
“There is no democracy in India and there is a dictatorship of four people,” he said without taking any names, adding, “what we are witnessing is the death of democracy. That is what India is witnessing. What India has built brick by brick, starting almost a century ago, is basically being destroyed in front of your eyes.”
He said: “Democracy is now a memory in India and nothing more. There are going to be consequences of this because people of India will not be quiet about that,” adding, “no institution is independent and they are in control of the RSS, which has installed its people there. We are fighting against the entire infrastructure.”
Other senior Congress functionaries detained included KC Venugopal, Mallikarjun Kharge, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, P Chidambaram, Jairam Ramesh and Shashi Tharoor.
Here is all you need to know about the action from the all-India Congress protests:
- Taking cue from union minister Amit Shah’s comments, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath asked the Congress to apologise to the nation for “insulting” Ram devotees by staging protests in black clothes on the day the construction of the Ram temple began in Ayodhya two years back. Like Shah, he too linked the protests with Ram temple and the “appeasement politics” of the Congress. Prime Minister Modi had laid the foundation stone of the Ram temple in Ayodhya on August 5, 2020. Adityanath said crores of people are observing Ayodhya Divas and the Congress has again played with their sentiments.
- Shah linked the Congress protest in black clothes to the party’s “appeasement” politics to convey its opposition to the Ram temple foundation laying by PM Modi on this day in 2020. Speaking to reporters at Parliament house complex, Shah said everybody saw protests from Congress leaders of late in regular clothes they wore but they especially chose black clothes for Friday’s agitation as Modi had peacefully resolved an over 550-year dispute involving Ram Janmbhoomi in Ayodhya and performed its shilanyas on this day. The issues of ED action and price rise are only excuses, Shah claimed, adding that the Congress has chosen to express its opposition to the foundation-laying ceremony and the ongoing construction of the temple by protesting in black clothes.
- The Congress hit back at Shah for linking the party’s protests to the Ram temple foundation day, saying it was a desperate attempt to “divert, distract, polarise and give a malicious twist” to its democratic demonstrations against price rise. The Opposition party also dismissed as “bogus” Shah’s remarks and said its stir against price rise has clearly hit home.
- Sitting inside a police vehicle after being detained, senior Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi said the Narendra Modi-led government was unable to see the price rise or even feel its effects because it had “sold the country to its friends”. She further said there was no investigation into these matters. She also asked how the government could expect that no one would raise their voice in a situation where basic commodities had become so expensive that it had had an adverse impact on the poor. Priyanka tweeted a video, saying in Hindi: “The cruel government, which collects tax on flour, milk and curd, is saying that there is no inflation. If there is no inflation, then why is the BJP feeling so scared after seeing the gas cylinder? By arresting us, how will you hide the truth from the public that in 2014, a cylinder available for Rs 410 is now available for 1,100, and this is what is called looting.”
- Union minister Ramdas Athawale called the nationwide protest called by the Congress “nautanki” and said the Narendra Modi-led government wanted to work with everyone and will win once again 2024. “Rahul is saying he will not get scared… I say Modi will win again in 2024 and nobody is trying to scare you (Rahul Gandhi)… we want to work with everybody,” Athawale said, adding that the BJP will cross 400 seats while the NDA will cross 460.
- A host of Congress leaders, including Rahul and Priyanka, were detained amid dramatic standoffs outside Parliament and the AICC headquarters. Congress MPs, including former party chief Rahul Gandhi, staged a protest in the Parliament House complex and then proceeded to take out a march towards the Rashtrapati Bhawan as part of the party’s nationwide stir against price rise, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) hike on essential items and unemployment. The protesting MPs of the opposition party raised slogans against the government demanding that the GST hike on essential items be withdrawn, with party chief Sonia Gandhi standing with the women MPs holding a banner outside gate number 1 of Parliament. The protesters were, however, stopped by the Delhi Police and not allowed to proceed towards the Rashtrapati Bhawan. Sonia Gandhi did not take part in the march. The other MPs were detained by police at Vijay Chowk.
- Priyanka staged a sit-in protest outside the AICC headquarters. She jumped police barricades put up on the road outside the party headquarters and squatted on the road, with the police personnel asking her to move from there as section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) is in force in the entire area of New Delhi district except Jantar Mantar. Amid dramatic scenes outside the AICC headquarters, the Congress general secretary was forcibly put in a vehicle by police and taken away.
- Addressing a press conference in the morning, Rahul said, “We are here to raise the issue of price rise.” He also said “democracy is being murdered”. He said India is witnessing the “death of democracy” and anybody who raises people’s issues and stands against the onset of dictatorship is “viciously attacked” and put in jail. The Gandhi family is attacked because it fights for democracy and for communal harmony, he added. Rahul charged that the sole agenda of the government is that people’s issues such as price rise, unemployment and violence in society must not be raised. “There is no democracy in India and there is a dictatorship of four people,” he alleged. Asked if the MPs were manhandled, he answered in the affirmative. “Our job is to resist these forces, our job is to ensure that democracy in India is protected, our job is to raise the issues of people. We are doing that,” the former Congress chief said. He alleged that some of the party MPs were even “beaten up” by police.
- Hitting out at the Congress, union information and broadcasting minister Anurag Thakur said truth will not turn into a lie even if those indulging in corruption hit the streets from Parliament. His remarks hinted at the ED questioning of Sonia Gandhi, Rahul and Mallikarjun Kharge in connection with money laundering allegations in the National Herald case. “Investigation agencies are impartial. Don’t create hurdles in their way. Don’t resort to such drama, he told reporters here. Those who have indulged in corruption, are out on bail and afraid of going to jail. They are running scared from investigation agencies,” he said.
- The BJP accused the Congress of staging a protest to “save” the Gandhi family from corruption charges and asked Rahul Gandhi to not blame Indian democracy for his party’s repeated poll defeats under him. BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad accused the Congress leader of making shameful and irresponsible comments. Prasad noted that it was Rahul Gandhi’s grandmother and then prime minister Indira Gandhi who had suspended people’s democratic rights by imposing Emergency.
- The Punjab and Haryana units staged protests with the Punjab unit under the leadership of state chief Amrinder Singh Raja Warring and opposition leader Partap Singh Bajwa. In Haryana, the protest was led by former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and state Congress president Udai Bhan. Police used water cannons to disperse protesters, who were then briefly detained.
- Black was the colour of the protest for the Congress with kurtas and headgears to scarves and sarees being among the sartorial choices. Male Congress MPs were seen sporting black kurtas, shirts, scarves, and headgears, while women leaders wore black with elan led by party chief Sonia Gandhi who wore a printed crisp saree with a black border and a black blouse. The most striking sartorial choice was by opposition leader in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, who wore a black kurta, a black turban and a white dhoti, turning heads during the Congress protest. Rahul, wearing a white shirt and a black armband earlier, changed into a black shirt for the protest. Priyanka wore a black salwar suit as she staged a sit-in protest outside the AICC headquarters. Chidambaram and his son and MP Karti Chidambaram sported black shirts with white ‘veshtis’, while Tharoor was seen in all blacks – kurta, trouser and ‘sadri’. Congress leader Deepender Hooda sported a black ‘Uttarakhandi’ headgear. Several women MPs were seen wearing black sarees and black salwar suits.
- Several Congress leaders across the country were detained like their peers in Delhi, as they took part in the nationwide protests against price rise and inflation
Mumbai: Prominent leaders such as Balasaheb Thorat, Nana Patole, and Sanjay Nirupam were detained amid protests near the Vidhan Bhavan.
Jharkhand: Hundreds of Congress workers, including the unit president, Rajesh Thakur, and some ministers, were detained during their march to Raj Bhavan. Protesters were detained following a minor scuffle with police when they tried to go past the barricade outside the Raj Bhavan They were, however, released later in the day. Among those detained include ministers Rameshwar Oraon, Alamgir Alam, Banna Gupta, Badal Patralekh and legislators Deepika Pandey Singh, Jaimangal Singh, Amba Prasad and Shilpi Neha Tirkey, according to police sources.
Andhra Pradesh: Unit chief Sake Sailajanath and several other leaders were taken into custody in Vijayawada on Friday as they tried to march towards the Raj Bhavan. They staged a sit-in at the state party headquarters Andhra Ratna Bhavan.
Odisha: In Odisha capital Bhubaneshwar, over 1,000 Congress activists and leaders courted arrest during a protest outside Raj Bhavan. The grand old party also demonstrated against the Naveen Patnaik-led BJD government in Odisha for rendering support to the BJP-led government at the Centre. State unit president, Sarat Pattnayak, and MLA Suresh Routray were arrested, a police officer said.
Assam: The Congress staged demonstrations across Assam and attempted to gherao the Raj Bhavan at Guwahati. State unit president Bhupen Borah, several MLAs and leaders took part in the main protest programme. A demonstration was organised near the Raj Bhavan, from where the Congress leaders and workers marched towards the governor’s official residence. Police personnel, however, tried to prevent the protestors in their attempt, even as the agitators managed to break through a couple of barricades and advance towards the Raj Bhavan. As the procession neared the Raj Bhavan, police detained the protestors, including Bora, and took them away from the spot.
Tamil Nadu: Scores of Congress workers were detained after they tried to take out a procession towards Raj Bhavan, protesting against the Centre over the price rise and other issues. State president KS Alagiri was among those detained.
Puducherry: Former CM V Narayanasamy was among those detained. Police sources said over 200 people belonging to the Congress including unit president AV Subramanian, MLA M Vaithianathan who attempted to reach the Raj Nivas (office-cum-residence of the Lieutenant Governor) to stage a demonstration were detained. Later, they were released, police said.
Rajasthan: Congress leaders and workers led by state chief Govind Singh Dotasra courted arrest after a massive protest. Similar protests were held across the state ruled by the party. Speaking at the state-level dharna in Jaipur, Dotasra accused the Centre of making the lives of people miserable and betraying people.
West Bengal: Congress activists staged protests in front of the Raj Bhavan and other places in the state. Around 50 Congress workers demonstrated outside the governor’s residence, wearing black clothes, holding placards and shouting slogans. A minor scuffle broke out when security personnel attempted to physically lift the protesters and put them inside waiting police vans, officials said. A Kolkata Police officer said all the agitators were taken into custody and later released on PR bonds.
Bihar: Over 100 Congress workers, besides some senior leaders, were rounded up by the police. Led by state unit chief Madan Mohan Jha, protesters began their march from Sadaqat Ashram, the historic premises housing the party office. Raising slogans against rising prices and GST imposition on items of daily use and criticizing the NDA government at the Centre for the same, they ended up being stopped by a police team barely a hundred meters away.
Demonstrations took place across the country even as many leaders and workers were detained.
Madhya Pradesh: In state capital Bhopal, Congress leaders including MLAs and former state ministers staged a sit-in at Roshanpur intersection. There was heavy police deployment around the site, and the protesters were not allowed to march to the Raj Bhawan to hand over a memorandum of demands to the governor. Police also made frequent announcements warning protesters of arrest if they scaled barricades, and arguments and scuffles broke out when some Congress workers tried to climb over, officials said.
Himachal Pradesh: Congress workers led by the unit president Pratibha Singh sloganeered against the Centre while staging the demonstration outside Raj Bhawan. Himachal Pradesh All India Congress Committee (AICC) in-charge Sanjay Dutt and national spokesperson Alka Lamba also took part in the protest. The protesters also raised slogans against the government’s alleged misuse of probe agencies to target the opposition leaders in the country.
Uttarakhand: Congress workers took out a march to the Raj Bhawan led by state president Karan Mahara. The march started from the party office at the Rajpur road but was not allowed by police to go beyond a barricade put up by them at the Hathibarkala chawk. Mahara said satyagraha is their only weapon against a host of injustices being committed by the BJP-led Centre.
Uttar Pradesh: Congress workers were stopped by police when they attempted to take out a march to the Raj Bhawan here as part of the party’s nationwide protest against inflation and the alleged misuse of central probe agencies. Police had put up barricades on the routes leading to the Raj Bhawan, the official residence of the governor, from the state Congress headquarters.
Chhattisgarh: The Congress staged protests across the state. In capital Raipur, the protest was held at Ambedkar Chowk where CM Bhupesh Baghel, state Congress chief Mohan Markam and other senior leaders were present, said Dhananjay Singh Thakur, party’s state spokesperson.
(With PTI inputs)