Gandhis protest ‘death of democracy’ in India; Priyanka detained

NEW DELHI: Congress leaders led by Priyanka Gandhi were detained here on Friday as they observed August 5 to mark the “death of democracy” in India.

Staying subdued about the annexation of disputed Jammu and Kashmir on this day in 2019, which the party opposed, and the stone-laying ceremony for the proposed temple at the site of the razed Babri Masjid later, to which it offered mixed response, the Congress focused instead on inflation, unfair trade taxes and authoritarian measures used to crush the protests.

Anybody who raised people’s issues and stood up against the “onset of dictatorship is viciously attacked and put in jail”, Rahul Gandhi said.

The issue also forced adjournments in both houses of parliament as Congress members registered their protest.

Wearing black clothes to protest against inflation and unemployment, Congress leaders hit the streets and were engaged in dramatic stand-offs with the police personnel outside the Parliament complex and the All India Congress Committee (AICC) headquarters.

Top leaders, including Mr Gandhi, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, Lok Sabha leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, general secretaries K.C. Venugopal, and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra were detained by the police.

There were dramatic moments outside the AICC headquarters as Ms Vadra climbed over a barricade and sat on protest.

In parliament, after forcing both the houses to be adjourned, Congress members, including party chief Sonia Gandhi, assembled at Gate number 1 before attempting to march towards the Rashtrapati Bhavan. The Congress MPs were, however, stopped by the Delhi Police close to Vijay Chowk lawns and were not allowed to proceed towards the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Ms Gandhi, who along with other women MPs was holding a banner, didn’t take part in the march. The other MPs were detained by the police at Vijay Chowk.

Former Union Minister P. Chidam­baram, Manish Tewari, other Lok Sabha members Manickam Tagore and Gaurav Gogoi were among the 64 MPs who were taken away in a police bus to the Kingsway Camp police lines, The Hindu said.

“We are here to raise the issue of price rise,” Mr Gandhi said just before his arrest and added: “Democracy is being murdered”.

Alleging that his parliamentary colleagues were being manhandled, Mr Gandhi posted pictures of Dean Kuriakose being forcibly taken away and Mr Venugopal and Mr Chowdhury resisting police action by lying on the road. Videos released by the party showed the Congress leader trying to rescue his colleague, Deepender Hooda, who was being dragged by the police personnel.

Published in Dawn, August 6th, 2022