The Goa state unit of the Congress party on Friday staged a demonstration outside the Central Bureau of Investigation office at Bambolim as part of the nationwide protest against the central government’s decision to divest CBI director Alok Verma of his power and send him on leave.
The demonstration was led by Opposition leader Chandrakant Kavlekar and Goa Pradesh Congress Committee president Girish Chodankar.
“The CBI officer has been sent on leave as he was about to start a probe into the Rafale deal. Prime Minister Narendra Modi got a whiff that he would be exposed by Alok Verma. Hence he (Verma) was sent on leave after a midnight decision taken by the central government,” Kavlekar said while interacting with media persons at Bambolim.
“This interference in the CBI by the Prime Minister is nothing but an attack on democracy and its institutions,” he observed.
Chodankar accused the Modi government of destroying independent institutions such as the Reserve Bank of India, the Enforcement Directorate and the Election Commission.
“We demand reinstatement of Alok Verma… The BJP is targeting the upright and honest officers across the country,” he said.
Margao MLA Digambar Kamat said the central government is misusing CBI officers, which has led to the infightings among the officers.
“The sequence of events over the last two days has dented the credibility of the CBI… Now it will be very difficult for the agency to regain common man’s faith and trust,” he said.
Congress MLAs Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenco, Francisco Silveira, Wilfred D’Sa, Clafasio Dias, Nilkanth Haldankar were also present for the demonstration.
However, none of them were allowed to meet the CBI officials.
PTI ADDS FROM NEW DELHI: Taking to the streets, the Congress on Friday took out nationwide protest marches to CBI offices accusing the government of trying to ‘cage the CBI’, as the party president Rahul Gandhi, along with several others, courted arrest and alleged “every institution was being ruined” in the country.
While Gandhi led hundreds of Congress workers and leaders on their protest march here, he was also joined by leaders from some other Opposition parties as well, including from the CPI, Trinamool Congress and Loktantrik Janata Dal.
Similar marches were taken out by the Congress in Patna, Hyderabad, Gandhinagar (Gujarat), Mumbai, Bengaluru, Bhubaneshwar, Chandigarh and Hyderabad, among other cities.
While police briefly detained the protesters at several places and released them later, there were no report of any violence.
In Chandigarh, the police said they had to use water cannons against the agitators and also suspend traffic for some time around the area of protest. Traffic was impacted for some time in the national capital also on a few stretches.
Amid tight security arrangements by the police and with a large number of camerapersons jostling to record the protests, protesters moved on shouting slogans and carrying placards alleging the government of trying to ‘cage the CBI’.
The Congress has alleged Rafale link in the government decision to divest CBI director Verma of his duties, but the government has rejected these allegations.
Gandhi, who led the nearly one-kilometre protest march of hundreds of Congress workers from Dala Singh College to the CBI headquarters in the national capital, also tweeted pictures of the protest march and him sitting at the Lodhi Road police station and said, “No matter how hard the government tries, it will not be able to cage the truth.”
A police officer said 130 protesters including Gandhi and other Congress leaders such as Ashok Gehlot and Bhupinder Hooda were detained and released after 30 minutes.
Loktantrik Janata Dal leader Sharad Yadav, CPI leader D Raja and TMC’s Nadimul Haque also joined the Congress protest.
Asserting that people are coming on the streets to show Prime Minister Narendra Modi “the mirror of reality”, Gandhi lashed out at the government alleging that Modi “stole” money from the country and can run but not hide from the truth.
Joining Gandhi in the protest, Gehlot said the decision to remove the CBI director was “illegal” and such a decision can only be taken together by the Chief Justice of India, the Opposition leader and the Prime Minister.
Replicating the Delhi protests, Congress workers, including scores of women, in Patna sat on a dharna outside the CBI office, carrying placards that read, ‘Save CBI, Save Democracy’.
The Congress was also joined by the Telugu Desam Party and CPI in their protest march in Hyderabad (Andhra Pradesh)
In Mumbai, city Congress president Sanjay Nirupam led the protest and accused Modi of “removing” Verma “illegally and by going against the Constitution”.
Over 40 Congress workers and leaders from Gujarat, including eight MLAs and a former state unit chief, were detained during their protest outside the CBI office in Gandhinagar. They were released later, the police said.
In Bengaluru also, the Congress workers protested in front of the CBI office, but several party MLAs and corporators were absent. While the party’s national general secretary and Karnataka in-charge K C Venugopal participated in the protest, party spokesperson Subhash Agarwal said the presence of MLAs and corporators did not matter much as it was a symbolic agitation.
Former chief minister Siddaramaiah took to Twitter to target the prime minister over the CBI issue.
In Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, demonstrations were held in front of central government offices. In Bhunaneshwar, hundreds of Congress workers, wearing black T-shirts, tried to enter the CBI office, but were stopped by the security personnel at the gate.
Kerala Congress leaders marched to the local CBI office in Thiruvananthapuram. Similar demonstrations were held in Jammu, Ranchi, Dhanbad, Vijayawada, Guwahati, among other cities.