Senior Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s women-centred “Ladki hoon, lad sakti hoon (I’m a girl and can fight)” campaign in Uttar Pradesh faced a challenge in a state governed by her own party on Wednesday. At Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi’s rally in Sangrur, the police were seen gagging, dragging, and loading women and men into jeeps. The crackdown was on qualified teachers, who, unable to find jobs, had gathered at the spot to protest.
Disturbing visuals from the spot showed the police trying to hold back slogan-shouting teachers. As slogans denouncing the Chief Minister and the Punjab government rang out, the police were seen gagging the protesters, stuffing cloth in their mouths.
One officer was seen dragging a woman protester by her clothes as she wriggled, all the while shouting slogans against the Congress government. The woman was then spotted inside a police bus with several other protesters. Unrelenting, she continued shouting slogans as a policewoman tried to pull her back inside and shut the window. The bus then drove away.
— ANI (@ANI) December 14, 2021
Men protesting at the rally were heckled by supporters of the Chief Minister. In some cases, there were physical assaults.
A man was seen catching a protester in a chokehold, trying to cover his mouth to stop him from booing the government. Others helped the police gag the protesters and herd them into a waiting truck.
In one of the clips, three cops were seen trying to pin a man down to the ground and kneeling on his chest before hauling him away. The footage, in the end, shows Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi on the stage ready for his address.
The police action on teachers drew criticism from the BJP. Social media was flooded with messages, some of them even targeting Priyanka Gandhi Vadra over her women-centric campaign.
This is not the first time Punjab’s police efforts to shield Mr Channi from protesters have come under criticism.
In a bizarre diktat earlier this month, the Punjab police had asked its officers to play hymns and religious songs on loudspeakers to drown the voice of protesters at functions attended by the Chief Minister. Massive criticism over this directive prompted authorities to withdraw it, citing “clerical mistake”.
Arvind Kejriwal, seeking to gain a foothold in the state in the upcoming Assembly elections, travelled to Mohali last month to reach out to the unemployed teachers. Mr Kejriwal gave eight guarantees to teachers and promised sweeping reforms in the state’s education sector if voted to power.