Opposition MLAs at a sit-in at the legislative assembly in Gairsain on Tuesday over Monday's lathi charge against villagers.(Kalyan Das/HT PHOTO)
Opposition MLAs at a sit-in at the legislative assembly in Gairsain on Tuesday over Monday's lathi charge against villagers.(Kalyan Das/HT PHOTO)

Police crackdown on villagers sparks pandemonium in Uttarakhand assembly

  • The opposition Congress accused the government of "high handedness" against the protestors especially women while drawing parallels with British rule and calling it "General Dyer's government".
PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 07:48 PM IST

Monday’s lathi charge and the use of water cannons by the police against villagers demanding the widening of a road sparked pandemonium on the second day of the budget session of the Uttarakhand assembly on Tuesday with the opposition raising the issue to berate the government.

Attacking the government and accusing it of "high handedness" against the protestors especially women while drawing parallels with British rule and calling it "General Dyer's government", the opposition MLAs led by Indira Hridayesh moved into the well of the House demanding an apology from the government over Monday's incident before staging a walkout and holding a sit-in protest at the entrance of the assembly and raising slogans against the government.

Several villagers including women were injured in the police action.

Congress MLA Pritam Singh raised the issue from Opposition by moving a motion on the same during which he accused the government of resorting to "high handedness against villagers who were exercising their democratic right to hold protest for their demand of widening the 19-km road in their village in Ghat area near Gairsain."

"The villagers have been holding their protest for over 80 days but the government didn't pay any heed after which they came to Gairsain because they had no choice. But the government instead of listening to them, lathi charged them and attacked them with water cannons injuring women which was extremely shameful," said Singh.

"The police on the order of this government attacked the women and elderly which reminded us of General Dyer during the British rule who ordered fire on the freedom fighters at Jallianwala Bagh. It seems this government is hell-bent on crushing any protest against it and doesn't believe in democracy," he said.

Accusing the government of insulting the "motherhood of the hills", Hridayesh demanded an apology from the government over the incident.

"If this government has come to power to insult the motherhood of the hills who are the backbone of this society, then it should resign and offer its apology to them in this House," said Hridayesh who also attacked chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat for "calling the protesters Andolanjivi" on Twitter on Tuesday after ordering a magisterial probe into the incident late Monday evening.

Later while answering the Opposition on the matter, parliamentary affairs minister Madan Kaushik said that, "The villagers' protest was going on peacefully near the police barricade 6 km away from the Assembly when it suddenly turned violent. The police used water cannons to control them as a usual process when some villagers started pelting stones and glass bottles at the policemen."

As soon as he said that the villagers pelted stones at the police, the Opposition erupted again objecting to his statement and moved towards the well of the House accusing Kaushik of "giving wrong information in the House."

The Opposition MLAs then staged a walkout and held a sit-in at the entrance of the House raising slogans against the government accusing it of "exploiting and insulting the women of hills."

The Opposition had staged a walkout once before in the day following a heated debate during an adjournment motion on price rise.

Speaking on the issue, Hridayesh accused the government of "doing nothing to control skyrocketing prices of essential commodities including fuel and food items."

"The common man is suffering because of very high fuel prices which are more than the neighbouring countries including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, China and others. He is also not able to have a two-time meal due to high prices of food items. The government is doing nothing to give any relief to them," said Hridayesh.

Countering her minister Kaushik presented the comparative figures of fuel prices in states of Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Punjab and West Bengal saying the "Uttarakhand has fuel prices lower than all these states". The opposition then walked out citing "unsatisfactory answers by the government on price rise."

Earlier during the day, Opposition MLA Qazi Nizamuddin and minister Kaushik were involved in a heated debate after the former raised the issue of the government "not following the rules for House proceedings".

Nizamuddin raising the issue said, "Since last four years, CM Rawat who holds many important departments like home, health, finance, excise and others is not present in the House during questions about his departments which is beyond our understanding. Also, as per the rule, a debate on the budget should be there after two days of it being tabled so as to give time to the members to study it. But this is not being done ever."

Kaushik objected saying, "The agenda of the House is decided after a meeting with the business advisory committee which includes the leader of opposition. It is then passed by the Speaker also. After all this, if an objection is raised then it is not fair."

Despite the pandemonium, the House passed two amendment bills related to a change in a non-government university operating in Uttarakhand and the other related to marketing of agricultural produce and livestock.

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