Several Congress leaders who were detained in Delhi on Friday afternoon for holding protests against price rise and unemployment in the country were released from the New Police Lines Kingsway Camp police station around 7 pm, ANI reported.
Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Shashi Tharoor, Mallikarjun Kharge and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury were among the top leaders of the party who had been detained for nearly six hours.
Delhi Police said that a total of 335 protestors, including 65 MPs were held under the Delhi Police Act to maintain law and order, ANI reported. The protestors organised demonstrations in areas where gatherings had been prohibited under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the police said.
“The protestors tried to obstruct the police officers from performing their duties, manhandled & injured them,” they added.
Earlier, visuals by ANI showed a group of police personnel dragging Vadra into a police van.
The protests, being held across India, started after Rahul Gandhi’s press conference concluded at the headquarters in the morning, PTI reported.
Rahul Gandhi said that there is no democracy in the country and that all institutions were under the control of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The Opposition leaders were not being allowed to talk about inflation either in Parliament or outside, and that they were being arrested instead, he alleged.
On Friday morning, the Delhi Police had denied the Congress workers the permission to protest citing prohibitory orders, PTI reported.
“Information has been received through reliable sources that you along with your supporters are going to hold the protest on Friday,” a letter to Congress general secretaries read. “In this regard, it is to inform you that Section 144 CrPC is in force in the entire area of New Delhi district except Jantar Mantar, protest/dharna/gherao in the area of New Delhi district on Friday cannot be permitted in view of security/law and order/traffic reasons and existing guidelines.”
The police tried to control the protests outside the Congress headquarters.
Despite the prohibitory orders, Congress MPs started their march from Parliament to Rashtrapati Bhavan. Rahul Gandhi joined the rally too. They were soon detained by the police.
The leaders were detained at the Police Lines in Kingsway Camp, ANI reported.
“Again today, Congress MPs denied democratic right to protest against price rise, unemployment and GST,” Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said in a tweet. “Bundled into police vans at Vijay Chowk. It’s clear, only those who are afraid try to instill fear!”
Congress leaders Deepender Singh Hooda and Harish Rawat were among those who were detained, ANI reported.
“The government is destroying the future of the youth of the country,” Hooda told reporters before he was detained by the police. “We want to protest peacefully but you can see how MPs are being detained.”
Earlier in the day, BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad alleged that the Congress had organised the protest to save the Gandhi family, the Hindustan Times reported. He was referring to the National Herald case against Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi that the Enforcement Directorate is investigating.
“The discussion of inflation and unemployment is an excuse,” Prasad said. “The reason [for today’s protests] is to scare the ED, threaten and save the family.”
Senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid, in response to the allegation, said that he was participating in the protest to save the party’s leader, ANI reported.
“Why will I come to save the family?” Khurshid asked. “I’ll come to save my leader, my leader saves me. I have no issue if they [BJP] make this a definition of family.”
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi led the protest at Parliament. The party MPs wore black as a mark of demonstration.
“Inflation has risen beyond the limit; the government will have to do something about it,” said Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. “This is why we’re fighting.”
Police were deployed across Delhi on Friday morning ahead of the Congress’s protest on inflation and unemployment, ANI reported.
The Opposition has been staging protests since the Monsoon Session of Parliament started on July 18, seeking a discussion on inflation. Several MPs have been suspended for protesting in both the Houses of Parliament.
India’s retail inflation has stayed above the Reserve Bank of India’s upper tolerance level of 6% for six straight months till June. The price-rise indicator had touched an eight-year-high of 7.79% in April.
The Opposition has also sought to discuss tax increases on several goods and services. On July 19, GST rate hikes kicked in on several goods and services ranging from unbranded packaged food items to hospital rooms with charges above Rs 5,000.
Meanwhile, some Congress leaders have come under the Enforcement Directorate’s scrutiny in money laundering cases related to the National Herald newspaper. The leaders have said the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government is indulging in vendetta politics through the central agencies.
On Thursday, Rajya Sabha and Congress MP Mallikarjun Kharge was asked to appear before the Enforcement Directorate at 12.30 pm even though the Parliament session was underway. He left the office after eight hours.
Rahul Gandhi said that the Congress will not be intimidated by the action of the Enforcement Directorate.
“We are not afraid of Narendra Modi,” he added. “They may do whatever they want. It does not matter. I will continue to work to protect the country and democracy and maintain harmony in the country. I will continue to do my work whatever they may do.”