|File photo of Indian Parliament (Pic: IANS)|
Thursday, February 13, 2014
Pepper spray causes chaos in Indian Parliament in row over formation of new state
NEW DELHI (AA) – Indian Parliament erupted in chaos Thursday morning as Lagadapati Rajagopal, a Congress politician, fired pepper spray during a protest against a new bill for the formation of Telangana state, to be carved out of southern Indian state Andhra Pradesh.
Panic broke out in Lok Sabha, the lower house of the parliament, on live television as lawmakers were seen coughing, sneezing and holding scarves to their faces while the protesting politicians broke glass, damaged a computer and snatched Speaker’s microphone.
Modugula Venugopala Reddy, who represents the Andhra Pradesh-based Telugu Desam Party opposed to the division of the state, allegedly hurled a knife which resulted in a glass table smashing, though he said he used a microphone, not a knife.
At least three ministers were rushed to hospital after they complained that their eyes were burning; a fourth was admitted to hospital for severe chest pain, Indian media reported.
Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar consulted different political parties as to what action should be taken against the offending ministers.
V. Narayansamy, a minister of state in the prime minister’s office told reporters that 17 ministers have been suspended for disrupting the house for five consecutive sittings or until February 21, when the last session of parliament ends before India goes to national election in May 2014.
Kamal Nath, Parliamentary Affairs Minister, said: “The incident is a blot on Indian democracy”.
Outside the parliament, unruly pro and anti-Telangana protesters clashed as police officers tried to control the crowd.
Gas masks were brought to the lower house of the parliament when it was reconvened after the violence. After listing the offending ministers, Kumar adjourned the house.
Telengana became one of three regions within Andhra Pradesh when it merged from Hyderabad state in 1969 but residents have long demanded for it to become its own state.
Anadolu Agency, February 13, 2014