Led by Arvind Kejriwal, IAC members were were gheraoing residences of senior politicians in Delhi
The protest against the coal scam organised by India Against Corruption (IAC) members on Sunday 26 August saw a cat and mouse game being played out between the Delhi Police and IAC members on the streets of the national capital. On Sunday morning, several IAC members including Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodiya and Gopal Rai were detained while trying to protest in front of the residences of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Bhartiya Janata Party president Nitin Gadkari. After they were released, the activists along with a large group of protestors were again detained for trying to do the same later in the day. The protesters were demanding the cancellation of coal mining leases given by the government without auctioning and an investigation against those responsible for the loss caused to the exchequer due to the allocation.
The action unfolded in the morning when Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodiya, Gopal Rai and other IAC members were detained by police when they started moving towards the residence of some of the senior politicians living in high-security area in New Delhi. The activists were then taken to Mandir Marg police station where Manish Sisodiya was allegedly manhandled and beaten by the police under detention. “The government should at least tell us under what charges were we detained,” said Gopal Rai.
After being released later, the activists regrouped at Jantar Mantar and along with a large group of protesters tried again to march towards senior political leaders’ houses in the afternoon. This time too they were stopped by the police at various roads. Police had to wield batons, use water-cannons and fire tear gas to keep the protesters under control. Kejriwal is also reported to have received baton blows.
While the police was trying to bundle out the protestors near the Prime Minister’s residence, the crowd blocked a police bus carrying Kejriwal, deflated its tyres and also damaged the window panes. Later when Kejriwal declared that they will court arrest at the Mandir Marg police station, the protestors on their way shouted slogans at the houses of Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and Minister for Information and Broadcasting Ambika Soni. Stones were pelted at former telecom minister A Raja’s house and his name-plate was also vandalised.
Simultaneous protests were also organised by IAC members against the chief ministers of Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh in their respectivestate capitals. Arvind Kejriwal tweeted that the protestors were beaten up in Madhya Pradesh and 24 people, including five women, have been formally arrested by the police. He has said that he will protest in front of chief minister’s house in Bhopal on Tuesday 28 August.
Kejriwal said that the objective of IAC’s protest had been achieved. Kejriwal said that he wanted to “tell people that both BJP and the Congress are hand-in-glove in allocation of coal blocks and also expose the brutal, corrupt nature of political establishment.” Attacking the BJP, he remarked, “Why is BJP asking for resignation of the PM, which they know he won’t give. Why aren’t they asking for cancellation of coal blocks?”
However, Kiran Bedi, who has been actively involved in all IAC programmes did not turn up for the protest despite declaring it on a social networking site. She had earlier aired her unwillingness to campaign against the Bhartiya Janta Party saying, “The centre is in the control of congress (sic) not opposition. Coalgate is by PM directly. Let’s focus here. Expand later!”
Prakhar Jain is a Correspondent with Tehelka.