New Delhi, March 16: The Congress on Monday hit the streets protesting against the land acquisition bill as over 500 party workers, including women, were detained when they broke barricades while marching towards parliament. Youth Congress workers, joined by senior party leaders like And Sharma, Ghulam bi Azad, Ambika Soni, Ahmed Patel and Oscar Ferndes, marched towards parliament raising slogans against the bill and the central government. Police said the number of protesters was around 4,000 and as they reached Parliament Street — a few hundred metres from parliament — the crowd turned aggressive and broke barricades put up by police. Some protesters climbed atop the barricades and waved party flags. They also indulged in sloganeering.
Policemen in riot gear used water cannons and batons to force the crowd to retreat while some were detained. Over 500 protesters were detained, including Youth Congress president Amarinder Singh. Some protesters including women were injured.
Soni said: “Police adopted a harsh attitude to disperse the protesters. At least 5-6 people were injured, which is wrong.” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi later said 50 people were injured in the baton-charge and were taken to hospital. Amarinder Singh, who was leading the protest, claimed he received injuries in his right hand when police resorted to baton-charge and used water cannons.
Party leader Randeep Surjewala said: “The BJP is anti-farmer and it stands exposed today... farmers and the Congress will win this fight.” Azad said: “The BJP has been a party of capitalists. They are not at all concerned for the welfare of the farmers.” Another party leader Sachin Pilot said: “The BJP is the same party that had proposed changes in the land acquisition bill but today they are opposing (the changes) them.” The contentious land bill has sailed smoothly through the Lok Sabha due to the NDA’s majority, but the government is facing stiff resistance in the Rajya Sabha where it lacks the numbers, with the opposition determined to stall its passage.
“We were going to protest at parliament in a peaceful manner. We were stopped by police and despite our peaceful protest, they used water cannons on us,” Amarinder Singh said. “We are against the land bill of the NDA government. When the BJP was in opposition, they had said they will allow a land bill which is in favour of farmers, but they are now going against this.” Ahmed Patel said: “Police have adopted this violent attitude against the peaceful protest of our Youth Congress workers, who were protesting in favour of farmers.” “We are not going to stop and this protest will go on across the country.” Leaders, including Patel, Soni, Ferndes and Kumari Selja, visited the Parliament Street police station and met all the detained Youth Congress workers. Later, police released all the workers.
The march by the Youth Congress workers began on Friday from Bhatta-Parsaul village in Uttar Pradesh and reached Rajghat on Sunday night. Congress sources said party president Sonia Gandhi and a few leaders were likely to meet President Prab Mukherjee on Tuesday to discuss the issue. (IANS)