Earlier today, members of the Congress party in Delhi marched from the Parliament House to the Rashtrapati Bhavan, in protest against several issues like inflation, unemployment, and GST on food items. This was following Congress MP Rahul Gandhi’s scathing remarks about the current government, as he reportedly said that India is witnessing the “death of democracy”. Amid protests, several Congress leaders and MPs including Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Shashi Tharoor and others, were detained by the Delhi Police.
The police had categorically denied the party’s request to hold a protest, and imposed Section 144 of the CrPC in New Delhi district, except for Jantar Mantar. However, the party decided to go ahead with their proposed protest despite no permission. “The government may suppress us as much as they want but we’ll protest against inflation, unemployment, GST on edible items, and go ahead with our schedule even if jailed,” said senior Congress leader Ajay Maken, earlier this week. Reportedly, police forces had been deployed across Delhi, ahead of the Congress’s protest and barricades were put up on Akbar Road this morning as party workers started to arrive at the All India Congress Committee (AICC) headquarters. Meanwhile, security was also deployed at Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Road, near Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s official residence, ahead of the Congress’ ‘PM Ghar Gherao’ demonstration.
On July 30, Congress general-secretary KC Venugopal indicated that they are set to hold nationwide protests on August 5, against rising unemployment and “record-breaking” inflation. Furthermore, they also announced the organisation of the ‘Prime Minister Ghar Gherao’ campaign as part of the protest. Venugopal had said in his statement, “Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha MPs will hold ‘Chalo Rashtrapati Bhavan’ from the Parliament, to register our protest against price rise and unemployment.” Meanwhile, the Pradesh Congress Committees (PCC) were asked to organise “preparatory meetings” at the state, district and block levels for a ‘Raj Bhavan gherao’ protest in the state capitals, to make these protests a “grand success”.
What Happened In Delhi?
Amid protests, in a dramatic escalation in the national capital, several Congress MPs and senior leaders, including Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Shashi Tharoor, Mallikarjun Kharge, Jairam Ramesh, P Chidambaram and Ranjeet Ranjan, among others, were reportedly detained by the Delhi Police. Priyanka Gandhi was among the fellow party members demonstrating outside the AICC headquarters. Meanwhile, Congress MPs led by party chief Sonia Gandhi reportedly wore black in Parliament, and began their march to the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Paramilitary forces were also deployed at the Indian Youth Congress office near the Parliament, ahead of the demonstrations. A couple of hours later, Congress workers reportedly clashed with the security personnel outside the AICC HQ, and meanwhile, other Congress MPs were stopped outside Vijay Chowk. “We were trying to march to Rashtrapati Bhavan but the police stopped us. They say Section 144 CrPC has been imposed and they’re not allowing us to protest. All MPs will offer themselves for arrest. We are trying to march ahead. We are fighting for the issues of people,” said Congress MP Rajeev Shukla.
“Some MPs are detained, some were also beaten up,” said Rahul Gandhi to reporters, after being stopped at Vijay Chowk. On the other hand, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra allegedly jumped over the police barricade placed outside the AICC headquarters during the protest, and was later detained. The detained Congress MPs were reportedly taken to the Kingsway Camp Police Station.
Rahul Gandhi’s Press Conference
This morning, Rahul Gandhi launched a scathing attack against the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government, during the press conference he held at the AICC HQ before the protests. Gandhi reportedly started his address by asking, “How are you enjoying the onset of dictatorship in India?” He continued to say that there is “no democracy in India”, and that it is a dictatorship run by four people. He further alleged that every independent institution in the country is under the control of the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) today. “My job is to resist the idea of the RSS and I am going to do it. The more I do it, the more I will be attacked, and the harder I will be attacked. I am happy, attack me,” said Gandhi.
“We are witnessing the death of democracy. 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,” said Gandhi. He further stated, “Anybody speaking against this government is viciously attacked, put in jail… people’s issues are not being allowed to be raised.” Gandhi further alleged that the incumbent government’s agenda is to “neglect people’s issues”.
He also took a shot at Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and said, “The macroeconomic fundamentals that she is talking about is something else.” He added that he does not think that she has “any understanding of what is going on in the economy of India”, and went on to call her the government’s “mouthpiece”. Furthermore, Gandhi compared the BJP government to infamous German dictator Adolf Hitler. “Hitler also won elections, he used to win elections. How did he used to do it? He had control of all of Germany’s institutions… Give me the entire system, then I will show you how elections are won,” he said.
The BJP retaliated against Gandhi’s statements and accused him of “blaming” the Indian democracy and its institutions for his repeated defeat in the polls. The party also reportedly questioned if there is any democracy in the Congress, which the BJP recently labelled as a “dynastic party” for not having a non-Gandhi chief for a while now. Subsequent to Gandhi’s remarks, Lok Sabha MP Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the Congress leader made some “shameful and irresponsible” remarks. Prasad also noted that it was former prime minister and Congress chief Indira Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi’s grandmother, who stripped people of their democratic rights by imposing the Emergency.
On the other hand, BJP’s Gaurav Bhatia said, “Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi had got bail in 2015 in the National Herald case. This case was filed long back and they were not even raising such issues (that ED is being controlled) then. It’s just a tact to divert attention from the fact that they have been caught red-handed.”
Congress Members Stage Protests In Several Cities
Several reports of nationwide protests by Congress leaders and party workers have emerged in various cities and states, including in Mumbai, Bihar, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, Guwahati, Hyderabad, and so on.
In Chandigarh, protests are being led by Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh Raja Warring, and the Punjab Police is using water cannons to disperse party workers. Bihar Congress members began demonstrations in Patna earlier today. Reportedly, Congress workers in Jammu and Kashmir have also taken to the streets to raise their objections against the inflation and GST rate hike. Meanwhile, in Mumbai, some Congress leaders have reportedly been detained at the Azad Maidan Police Station.
Delhi Police’s Letter To Congress
Delhi Police, on Thursday, had sent a letter addressed to KC Venugopal, which stated that section 144 of the CrPC has been imposed across New Delhi, with Jantar Mantar being an exception. The letter acknowledged the Congress’ intention to protest in the New Delhi district area on August 5, which could not be permitted. The police cited several reasons for denying permission such as security, law and order, traffic, the guidelines complying with a 2018 Supreme Court order, and other civil appeals. The police had also warned that the violation of this order may invite legal action.