The much awaited 'jail bharo' of Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee culminated (UPCC) in an action packed drama with police resorting to lathi charge, using water canons and lobbing tear gas shells to disperse the agitated Congressmen who continued to fight pitched battles here and there in front of Vidhan Bhawan and nearby areas in Lucknow.
UPCC President Salman Khurshid was among those who received 'lathi' blows when he along with Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Pramod Tiwari, UPCC Vice President Satyadev Tripathi, senior party leader Sanjay Singh and others was sitting on a dharna in front of Vidhan Bhawan to court arrest.
A red faced Khurshid could be seen fuming though he could not be heard in the melee. Some Congressmen claimed that they provided a shield to the UPCC president who continued to ask Congressmen to apply restrain. Tiwari, who had his own security men around, also asked police officers to keep away from the spot where senior leaders were sitting on a dharna.
Khurshid declared that the Congress would continue to fight the Mulayam Singh Yadav government, the days of which he said were numbered. Monday's incident spoke out the frustration of the Mulayam government, he said. The Mulayam government had no right to stay in power, said Tiwari while Sanjay Singh asserted that the Congress would only gain strength from such agitations. Lathi charge reflected on the government's frustration, he said.
At the end there were no arrests. A few buses arranged to take Congressmen to jail were left with no drivers. So, instead of going to jail the Congressmen had to remain contended with walking down to UPCC headquarters from where they had reached Vidhan Bhawan in a large procession.
On way other processions from other sides joined to make it a large gathering in front of Vidhan Bhawan.
Trouble started when a group of Congressmen led by All India Mahila Congress President Rita Bahuguna Joshi broke the first police cordon and reached at barricades. While Joshi came back to take a seat on the top of a truck along with other Congress leaders awaiting arrest the Congressmen continued to clash with policemen to cross the barricade.
At this point some youth began breaking windowpanes of the buses that had been kept in waiting there. At the same time the lathi wielding policemen chased Congressmen and pushed to a few metres. Those injured included women. This group of policemen even wielded 'lathi' blows on Khurshid and other policemen.
Soon after the policemen and Congressmen clashed at a number of points around the Vidhan Bhawan area. Senior officers could be seen rushing from one spot to the other to control the situation. There were occasions when policemen chased Congressmen for nearly 50 to 100 metres beyond Bapu Bhawan and the Sahakarita Bhawan crossings. There were also an occasion when the Congressmen reassembled at these points and chased the policemen back to Vidhan Bhawan.
The Congressmen and policemen could be seen pelting stones at each other. The Congressmen also hurled their footwear at the policemen. At least 60 Congressmen were injured in the lathi charge, said the UPCC Chief Spokesman Akhilesh Pratap Singh. The SP (EAST) Ajai Shankar Rai said some policemen were also injured in clashes. Rai said police showed restrain and hardly any force was used.
Email Umesh Raghuvanshi: umeshraghuvanshi @hindustantimes.com