Maha Congress protests against inflation, unemployment, many leaders detained (Ld)

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Scores of Congress leaders and workers were detained after they attempted to stage protests on Friday outside the Maharashtra Raj Bhavan to highlight issues of inflation and unemployment.

Led by state President Nana Patole and city chief Bhai Jagtap, hundreds of leaders and activists, raising anti-government slogans with banners and posters, were stopped by a large posse of police near Vidhan Bhavan at Nariman Point as they marched towards the gubernatorial residence in Malabar Hill.

“We are protesting democratically, peacefully and going to Raj Bhavan to lodge a protest against the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Central government. People are suffering under high prices and runaway inflation, the growing unemployment among the youth, the harassment due to Goods and Services Tax, and related issues,” Patole said.

Besides neglecting farmers’ issues, the BJP government has also “snatched food from the poor” by imposing GST on essential food items, and launched the Agnipath scheme “to rub salt on the wounds” of the unemployed youth, he added.

Flaying the police action, Congress leader Balasaheb Thorat said: “In a democracy, we have the right to protest but the current BJP government is trying to silence us.

“Even before the Independence, we had the right to protest and we shall continue to raise our voice against the hardships borne by the common masses.”

According to Patole, when the Congress had announced the protests on Friday, many leaders were already under detention since Thursday night by the Eknath Shinde-Devendra Fadnavis government. This was done to crush the agitation and deprive the Opposition of their right to protest peacefully, he said.

A Congress leader told the media that over 10,000 people including Patole, Jagtap, Thorat, Ashok Chavan, Naseem Khan, Varsha Gaikwad, Chandrakant Handore, Aslam Sheikh, Prithviraj Chavan, Manikrao Thakre, Nitin Raut, Wajahat Mirza and Atul Londhe, from Mumbai and surrounding districts, were taken forcibly to waiting police vans and whisked off to the local police station.

The police had also stopped vehicles sporting Congress flags, attempting to reach Raj Bhavan from different parts of the state, as part of the all-India agitation, besides demonstrations carried out in other major cities in Maharashtra.

Patole, Jagtap and others also slammed the BJP for the reprehensible treatment meted out by the Delhi Police to senior Congress leaders like Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi while protesting in the national capital.

“We are opposing the political tyranny of the BJP government. It is not a crime to highlight peoples’ issues in a democracy, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s regime does not believe in Democracy and is muzzling the Opposition,” Thorat said.

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