Cops battle anti-graft protests at Manmohan, Sonia's doorsteps

Aug 27, 2012, 06:05 IST | Agencies

Hundreds of IAC supporters broke through police barricades in a bid to besiege the houses of the Prime Minister and the UPA chief; cops had to fire tear gas, water cannons to disperse agitators

Police fired tear gas and water cannons 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. A source said Manmohan Singh was at home when the protests took place. “He was busy with work,” he said.

Mass fury?  The biggest show of strength by IAC since Team Anna was disbanded on August 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. Pic/AFP

In neutral gear
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.

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.

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 the parliament.

Around 2.30 pm, 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”.

How it started
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. By noon, hundreds, some waving the Indian flag, proceeded towards the houses of the prime minister and the Congress president.  

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