Police battle anti-corruption protests near PM, Sonia houses (Roundup)

August 26th, 2012 - 9:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, Aug 26 (IANS) Police fired tear gas and sprayed water as hundreds led by Arvind Kejriwal noisily protested against corruption near Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s residences.

Large numbers of India Against Corruption (IAC) supporters broke through police barricades in a bid to besiege the houses of Manmohan Singh as well as Gandhi in the heart of the capital.

Though the IAC had also called for protests outside BJP president Nitin Gadkari’s residence, blaming both the Congress and BJP for the irregular coal blocks allocations, the main focus seemed to be the prime minister and Gandhi.

An official source said Manmohan Singh was at home when the protests took place. “He was busy with work,” the source told IANS.

The one notable absentee Sunday was former Team Anna member Kiran Bedi.

Asked about her, Kejriwal said: “On this issue she probably feels that the BJP can give the country a good government. But the BJP can’t.”

Kejriwal had said Saturday that Bedi was with them, and Bedi had stated she “fully supports” Kejriwal’s protest call.

In a clear sign that IAC was not focussing only on the Congress, its members staged similar demonstrations in various state capitals including Jaipur, Bhopal, Bangalore, Mumbai and Bhubaneshwar, IAC told IANS.

Both Kejriwal and lawyer-cum-IAC leader Prashant Bhushan accused police of using force without provocation.

Kejriwal said the protests were “a success” and had driven home the point that both the Congress and BJP were to blame for the irregular coal blocks allocation — an issue that has crippled parliament.

“We have exposed the real face of the government,” Kejriwal told a defiant crowd drenched by water. “We have shown that both the Congress and BJP have looted this country.”

Around 2.30 p.m., more than seven hours after it all began, he formally called off the protests although small leaderless groups continued to face the police at both venues.

Late in the evening, Kejriwal tweeted that “this political revolution would sweep the whole country in times to come”.

The biggest show of strength by IAC since Team Anna was disbanded Aug 6 clearly took Delhi Police by surprise as they were outnumbered after noon when the number of demonstrators suddenly surged.

Hundreds were detained and forced into waiting buses.

Kejriwal said the “political alternative” started by Anna Hazare would be a party “under law but it would be a political revolution in practice”.

Early in the morning, police detained Kejriwal and six activists but released them after about two hours from a police station when hundreds of supporters gathered shouting slogans.

Kejriwal was stopped near a police barricade close to Manmohan Singh’s residence with two others.

After the group was let off, Kejriwal made it to Jantar Mantar in the city centre and vowed to return to Manmohan Singh’s residence — which he did.

Kejriwal asked why the government was stopping them.

“The Congress and BJP hold so many protests. They are never stopped. If we protest quietly, why are we detained?”

By noon, hundreds, some waving the Indian flag, proceeded towards the houses of the prime minister and the Congress president. There were scuffles as police tried to control the charged activists.

At his village in Maharashtra, Hazare said the Congress and other parties were equally corrupt and that only honest people should be elected to parliament.

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