Congress chief Sonia Gandhi was on Thursday questioned by the Enforcement Directorate for nearly three hours in a money laundering case linked to the National Herald newspaper, reported NDTV.

The 75-year-old reached the agency’s headquarters in central Delhi a little after noon.

Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra accompanied her mother, reported NDTV. The Congress chief had requested the agency to allow Vadra to stay with her as she keeps her medicines.

The central agency has summoned the Congress chief for another round of questioning on July 25, PTI quoted unidentified officials as saying.

Members of the Congress staged protests across the country on Thursday morning. They alleged that the Enforcement Directorate’s action reflected the “vendetta politics” of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government. The police used water cannons to control the protesting Congress workers in Delhi.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and party MLA Sachin Pilot were detained in the national capital, ANI reported. “It’s our right to protest in a democracy, but it is also being crushed upon,” Pilot said.

Congress leader P Chidambaram said that party leaders who were detained at the Kingsway Camp police lines during Gandhi’s questioning were allowed to leave at 4 pm.

“The ED had no more questions after 3 pm,” he said. “Despite Mrs Sonia Gandhi offering to continue to be available for questioning, the ED concluded the questioning today.”

Earlier on Thursday, 12 Opposition parties issued a joint statement against the Modi government’s “relentless vendetta against political opponents” through misuse of investigating agencies.

The statement said that prominent political leaders have been deliberately targeted and subjected to harassment in an unprecedented manner. The Opposition parties vowed to intensify their collective fight against the Modi government.

The signatories include leaders of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Telangana Rashtra Samithi, Shiv Sena, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Communist Party of India, Revolutionary Socialist Party, Indian Union Muslim League, National Conference and the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.

Gehlot and Congress leader Pawan Khera also held a press conference in Delhi and accused the BJP of misusing central agencies.

“There is a conspiracy to silence us and stop us,” they said. “Intent to silence the Opposition.”

Gehlot said the misuse of central agencies showed that democracy was in danger in India, ANI reported. “Our fight is to save the nation,” he added. “Today, if they [BJP] would have been in our place, they would have indulged in arson.”

Gehlot said that the Enforcement Directorate should first hold a press conference to reveal under what charges Gandhi is being questioned, PTI reported.

“The ED should have gone to her residence to take her responses to their questions,” he said.

In Parliament, the Lok Sabha was adjourned soon till 11.30 am as Opposition leaders shouted slogans against the questioning of Gandhi.

“Everybody is equal before the law or not?” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi asked in response to the protests. “Is the Congress president a super human being?”

Protests were also held when Sonia Gandhi’s son and former party chief Rahul Gandhi was questioned by the Enforcement Directorate for 50 hours over five days in connection with the case last month.

A number of Congress leaders were also detained and a video shared on social media showed Indian Youth Congress President BV Srinivas being dragged away by several police officers and kicked by one of the officials on the way. Congress MP Jothimani even alleged that officials tore her clothes, removed her shoes and “carried her like a criminal” in a bus along with other women protestors.

Congress General Secretary Jairam Ramesh on Thursday alleged that the Delhi Police had stopped the media from entering the party headquarters in New Delhi. “This high-handedness was only to be expected and reflects the mindset of the Modi sarkar,” he added.

Ramesh said that the protesting MPs and members of the Congress Working Committee courted mass arrest outside the party headquarters “in a show of solidarity with Sonia Gandhi”.

“We are being taken away to a police station in Old Delhi evidently,” he wrote on Twitter.

According to India Today, some Congress workers entered the Shivaji Bridge railway station premises in Delhi to stop the movement of trains.

In Bengaluru, members of the Youth Congress allegedly torched a car. Six persons were arrested by the police in connection with the incident.

The case against Gandhis

The National Herald is published by Associated Journals Limited and owned by Young Indian Private Limited. It was founded and edited by Jawaharlal Nehru before he became India’s first prime minister.

In April 2008, the paper suspended operations as it had incurred a debt of over Rs 90 crore. BJP MP Subramanian Swamy has accused Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi of setting up the Young Indian Private Limited firm to buy the debt using the funds from the Congress.

In his complaint before a trial court, Swamy accused the Gandhis and others of conspiring to cheat and misappropriate the funds. He has alleged that the Young Indian firm paid only Rs 50 lakh to obtain the right to recover Rs 90.25 crore that the Associate Journals Limited owed to the Congress.

The party had loaned the amount to Associated Journals Limited on an interest-free basis, according to court records. The Congress has claimed that there was no money exchange and only conversion of debt into equity took place to pay off dues like salaries.

Also read: How the Modi government has weaponised the ED to go after India’s Opposition