Clashes broke out between workers of the Aam Aadmi Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party in half-a-dozen towns across the country hours after AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal was briefly detained by police in a north Gujarat town.
Protests by AAP workers outside the Delhi BJP office against Kejriwal's detention in Gujarat snowballed into a clash when BJP activists allegedly threw stones at them and the protestors retaliated. While both sides hurled chairs and sticks at each other, police intervened, using water cannons to disperse the crowd.
Angry AAP workers vandalised the BJP hoardings in the area. AAP leaders Shazia Ilmi, Ashutosh and Rajmohan Gandhi were present at the protest site. Ilmi told media persons it was a peaceful protest by them but the BJP workers indulged in violence.
In Gujarat's Kutch, former chief minister Kejriwal's car was attacked by a few unidentified people. The windscreen of his four-wheeler was damaged in the incident.
Armed with brooms, AAP workers also clashed with lathi-wielding activists of BJP in Uttar Pradesh's Lucknow. AAP activists allegedly attacked the BJP office with bricks, drawing retaliation as the saffron party workers, carrying canes, took to the streets.
Several people were mercilessly beaten up by canes after being knocked down on the road as rival groups chased each other away.
BJP supporters clash with AAP supporters outside the BJP office in Lucknow. (PTI photo)
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Reports of similar clashes also came in from other UP towns such as Jhansi, Kanpur and Allahabad.
Reacting over the New Delhi clashes, BJP leaders said the AAP was responsible for the fracas.
"Do they believe in Maoism?" asked BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad while another spokesman Nirmala Sitharaman said: "No one should indulge in this kind of destructive politics. What's happening is completely unwarranted, highly condemnable."
While the police were able to round up a few protesters, the violent episode led to traffic snarls outside the BJP office, which is located in the heart of the national capital. The area is a high security zone and both the BJP and AAP supporters claimed the cops did not take immediate action against the aggressors.
A Twitter storm also broke out after AAP leader and former journalist Ashutosh was pictured climbing the gate of the BJP office in New Delhi. While the AAP leader claimed he was requesting his supporters to stay calm, BJP leaders charged him with inciting violence. "Why was Ashutosh leading the violent protests? We demand action against him," BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli said.
Read: Kejriwal, supporters detained briefly in north Gujarat
BJP leader Anurag Thakur retweeted a photo of Ashutosh climbing the entrance of the BJP headquarters.
Speaking to reporters after the incident, the AAP leader said, "BJP workers attacked me from inside their office, I have been injured. They even hurt our women workers."
The incidents of violence took place barely hours after Kejriwal, who began a four-day tour of Gujarat to check chief minister and BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi's claims that the state was a model of development, was detained by police in a village in north Gujarat. The former Delhi chief minister was released after 30 minutes.
After the reports of clashes, Kejriwal on Wednesday evening accused the BJP of instigating violence in front of its headquarters in Delhi even as he apologised for some AAP activists "retaliating" while protesting his detention.
Kejriwal claimed that AAP workers were first attacked by BJP supporters. Some of the agitated AAP workers had responded by pelting "two or three stones", he told reporters in Bhuj.
"I am sorry for the mistakes committed by the AAP workers. They should not have resorted to violence on my detention," he said.
He also blamed BJP workers for attacking his entourage while travelling in Gujarat and said the glass panes of his car were broken.
He appealed to his volunteers to stay calm and not resort to any kind of violence.
Kejriwal and other AAP leaders will continue their Gujarat tour in Mundra, Kutch, on Thursday.
With inputs from Agencies
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