Thousands of supporters of the former Indian Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi battled with police?
Thousands of supporters of the former Indian Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi battled with police outside a courthouse in New Delhi on Tuesday (4 October). Police had fired tear gas to disperse the milling crowds, which retaliated with stones and bricks. As they fought, a magistrate freed Mrs. Gandhi from police custody less than 24 hours after her arrest on corruption charges.
SYNOPSIS: Mrs. Gandhi and her Congress Party were convincingly ousted from power in elections last March. But, after keeping a low profile for six months, Mrs. Gandhi had stirred her supporters' feelings with rapturously-received public appearances last month. Then, she was arrested on Monday (3 October) on corruption charges and was detained at a police barracks until she appeared the following morning at the magistrates court.
The numbers and emotions of her supporters both ran too high for their show of fait to remain peaceful. And, while these battles were taking place, other Gandhi supporters were trying to storm the home of the new Indian Prime Minister Morarji Desai. Several hundred of them, hurling stones, broke through a police cordon and reached the gates of Mr. Desai's villa.
Inside the court, the hearing lasted 90-minutes before the Additional Metropolitan Magistrate, Mr. R. Dayal said there were no grounds to believe the accusation was well-founded. Mrs. Gandhi was released unconditionally. Her son Sanjay emerged first into the melee.
Then Mrs. Gandhi struggled through the mob with a police escort that was to take her back to her home. Before she left, court officials had said the charges against her still remained. However, her jubilant Congress Party supporters outside were shouting through the din: `Case withdrawn, Case withdrawn.'
Another huge crowd pressed outside the fence of Mrs. Gandhi's home in central Delhi. Mrs. Gandhi appeared composed for a woman charged only the day before on two charges of corruption, as well as alleged misuse of her powers while in office. The main charge against her allege that, with a government Minister and an official, she awarded an oil-drilling contract worth 17.4 million U.S. dollars (GBP10.17 million to French firm, though a United States firm had quoted only four million dollars (GBP2.29 million sterling).