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Price-rise protest: Priyanka, Congress workers dragged away

Ugly show of government’s muscle power comes on a day Rahul Gandhi warned about 'death of democracy' in India
Footage on social media shows Priyanka Gandhi Vadra  being roughed up on Friday.
Footage on social media shows Priyanka Gandhi Vadra being roughed up on Friday.

Sanjay K. Jha   |   New Delhi   |   Published 06.08.22, 02:30 AM

Thousands of police and paramilitary personnel on Friday chased, grappled with and dragged men and women, commoner and Congress leader, on Delhi’s roads to prevent them displaying placards that read “Gas ke daam kam karo (Reduce LPG prices).”

Many MPs and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra were physically lifted to police vehicles. Rahul Gandhi alleged that he and some other MPs had been manhandled, while signalling that this was less important than the issue they were raising.

The ugly show of the government’s muscle power — outside the Congress headquarters and near the Parliament building — came on a day Rahul warned about the “death of democracy” in India. The Rapid Action Force, CRPF and the police had been deployed in numbers since morning, with the Congress planning to march to the residences of the Prime Minister and the President in protest at the steep rise in prices.

Priyanka was lifted and dumped into a police officer’s car after a 30-minute standoff on the streets, during which Congress workers had broken the first barricade outside the party HQ and Priyanka had managed to jump the second.

“This shows the desperation of the Modi government. Mamuli pradarshan tak nahin hone dete (Even minor demonstrations are not allowed),” Priyanka said.“They think they can suppress us; (that) they will scare us by deploying these forces and we will promptly surrender. We won’t.”

Priyanka added: “We are here for a cause. Their ministers said in Parliament that there is no price rise. We were going to the Prime Minister’s residence to tell them the truth, to show them what the price of a gas cylinder is.

“But they don’t want anybody to speak up. Modi has given all the nation’s assets to his friends. The price rise doesn’t worry them. But is it acceptable — two-three people grabbing all the resources and the poor unable to buy a (cooking gas) cylinder?”

The Congress had planned to march to the Prime Minister’s residence from its party office while its MPs were to walk to Rashtrapati Bhavan from Parliament House. Both routes were heavily barricaded, ensuring the protesters could not move even a few yards.

This was done by invoking Section 144 — a ban on assemblies that is perennially in operation — and the security arrangements ahead of Independence Day, which is still 10 days away.Marches to Rashtrapati Bhavan during a Parliament session had taken place in the past. But Delhi today offers no breathing space to protests.

Congress protesters are prevented from stepping out of the party headquarters — an unusual sight for a democratic country but a regular occurrence in the capital now.Even entry into the Congress office was blocked since early morning, as witnessed during the protests against the misuse of central agencies over the last few weeks.

Over 1,200 Congress workers had therefore stayed overnight at the party headquarters, 24 Akbar Road.Despite the stifling crackdown, the Congress was able to make an impact, both at the party headquarters and outside Parliament.Congress members from both Houses, wearing black, stepped out with placards protesting the soaring prices and the imposition of GST on everyday food items. They were stopped at Vijay Chowk, just outside the Parliament building, where a massive deployment of police and paramilitary forces awaited them.

While most MPs were physically lifted or dragged along the road to waiting buses, Rahul managed to stand on the road with a few others for over 40 minutes. Rahul had been dragged to a bus at one point but muscled his way back again to continue the show for a little longer.He said some MPs and he himself were manhandled but that wasn’t a problem.

“We only want to raise the issue of prices and GST. Our job is to resist these forces. We are doing this for the people.”The Congress MPs, who had come out of Parliament at 11.30am, were finally removed from the spot around 12.30pm. The crowds at the party office were cleared by 1.10pm.While all the MPs and senior office-bearers were taken to the Kingsway Camp police station, party workers were detained in various police stations across the city.

Party communications chief Jairam Ramesh tweeted at 6.56pm: “Congress MPs have just been released after being detained for almost six hours for protesting peacefully and democratically against price rise, unemployment and GST.”Reports of protests came from every state. Congress workers were ecstatic that the leadership was finally on the battleground, and hoped the party’s revival would begin from here.The Congress will march countrywide against joblessness from August 9 and the big event, the Bharat Jodo Yatra (Unite India March), will begin on October 2.

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