THE Congress in Maharashtra on Saturday hit out at the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), accusing it of muzzling the voice of the Opposition after the government stepped in to halt a proposed silent protest by Congress workers. “The government is hell bent on destroying the spirit of inquiry, the spirit of questioning, and the right to dissent,” said Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam.Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s public meeting in the Bandra-Kurla Complex Saturday, where he virtually kicked off the BJP’s poll campaign, the Congress had planned a ‘silent protest’ against him at Bharat Nagar near the meeting’s venue.
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Nirupam said that while declining permission for the protest, the Mumbai police also prevented him from stepping outside his residence in Andheri’s Lokhandwala by invoking Section 149 of the CrPC Saturday morning, which permits a police officer to intervene for the “purpose of preventing a cognisable offence”.
“I was virtually put under house arrest. There is heavy police bandobast outside my house, and I was prevented from stepping outside my house,” said Nirupam.
The Mumbai Congress chief further alleged that several other Congress leaders from the city had been similarly detained.
Incidentally, Nirupam reportedly stepped out of his house around 3.40 pm. The Congress raised slogans against Modi and the government at Versova. Nirupam was later taken to Versova police station.
Accusing the BJP government of highhandedness, the Congress issued a press statement stating, “It is a black day for Indian democracy. The act confirms the fact that the BJP government has a sadist and a fascist mindset, which denies citizens’ basic fundamental and constitutional right to hold peaceful protests.”
It further said that the “government appeared to be extremely scared and perturbed, and as such is unable to accept even a silent protest. The Congress party and the people of India will not be deterred by such highhanded anti-democratic approach of the BJP government. This only boosts our resolve to further escalate our fight against fascism.”
Nirupam said that his office had duly applied for permission to hold the silent protest on December 21, which was denied. “I’m within my rights as a citizen to raise questions to the PM. He is liable to answer if the woes of the common man due to demonetisation would end post the December 30 deadline. Also, the PM must respond to graft allegations raised by (Congress Vice-President) Rahul Gandhi instead of taunting and mimicking him,” Nirupam said. “The protestors were to only hold placards and black bands to demonstrate their protest.”
The Mumbai Police, meanwhile, refuted Nirupam’s claims, suggesting that the police force deployed outside his residence was only part of the security arrangements made in light of the PM’s visit.
Mumbai Police spokesperson DCP Ashok Dudhe said, “We deployed policemen across the city, especially on the route of the PM’s convoy, to maintain law and order and to avoid any untoward incident during his visit.”
Meanwhile, All India Congress Committee General Secretary Mohan Prakash, in charge of Maharashtra, alleged that the police was “curbing democratic rights of political rivals at the behest of the government.”