IAC Protest against Coalgate a grand Success says Kejriwal

Police used tear gas and water cannons as hundreds of anti-corruption activists led by Arvind Kejriwal staged noisy protests near Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s residences.

What began as a trickle of protests swelled dramatically after noon, taking Delhi Police by surprise as large numbers of India Against Corruption (IAC) supporters carried out their threat of besieging the houses of Manmohan Singh, Gandhi and BJP president Nitin Gadkari.

But while the area Gadkari’s residence was largely peaceful, the show of strength took place near Gandhi’s 10 Janpath residence and near 7 Race Course Road, the prime minister’s residence.

As slogan shouting protesters broke through police barricades after hours of drama in the heart of the capital, police opened up the water cannons and used lathis to disperse them.

Hundreds were arrested and forced into waiting buses.

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

“There was no need to do all this,” Bhushan said, speaking from inside a bus. “They have unnecessarily used water cannons and tear gas.”

Kejriwal called the protests “a success” and said the IAC had managed to drive home the point that both the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (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, Kejriwal formally called off the protests.

Police justified the use of force, saying the IAC protest in the VVIP areas was unauthorized.

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.

Another IAC leader, Manish Sisodia, was detained outside 10 Janpath along with a colleague.

“Some of the detained people were manhandled,” an IAC spokesperson told IANS.

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

Kejriwal asked why the government was stopping them.

“The Congress and BJP hold so many protests. They are never stopped. When Raj Thackeray holds a rally without police permission and thousands attend, they are not 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, at times sprinting and taking an outnumbered police by surprise.

While Kejriwal was near Manmohan Singh’s residence, Bhushan joined the protesters near Gandhi’s residence.

At one point, scuffles broke out as police tried to push back the charged up activists. The crowds kept trying to advance shouting “Halla Bol!” and “Want want justice!”

Kejriwal vowed to keep the protests going — in the long run.

“If they think they can go on indulging in corruption, we will protest. We will definitely protest. It is our revolution,” he said.

In a surprise move, Delhi Metro announced they would keep open all six metro stations that were to be shut from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday in a bid to foil the protests.