UK & World News
Pepper Spray Fired In India Parliament Brawl
An Indian politician has fired pepper spray in parliament during a brawl over a controversial new bill to create a new state in the south of the country.
Television pictures showed a number of MPs rushing out teary-eyed, coughing and holding handkerchiefs to their faces on Thursday, moments after legislator Lagadapati Rajagopal fired the spray on fellow MPs, the parliamentary Speaker and the treasury benches.
Protests erupted after Home Affairs Minister Sushilkumar Shinde rose to table the Telangana bill, which aims to carve a new state out of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.
Protesters responded by smashing a glass table and uprooting microphones. There are also unconfirmed reports that one parliamentarian brandished a knife.
Three MPs were rushed to hospital for medical attention.
Mr Rajagopal, who is a politcian in Andhra Pradesh and a member of the ruling Congress party, said he used the spray in self-defence. He said he saw members of his party coming towards him to tackle him and that's when he sprayed them all.
When questioned by journalists he said he was unrepentant of his actions.
The bill, which was tabled by the Congress party, has been fiercely criticised by parliamentarians, including members of the ruling party itself.
Nevertheless, several politicians condemned the scenes in parliament on Thursday.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath told reporters: "The incidents which took place in the house are a big blot on our democracy.
"Parliamentary democracy provides for dissent but does not provide for the kind of disruption and attempted violence which we saw today. I feel ashamed that such an incident has taken place."
Speaker Meera Kumar, who was rushed out of the house and was seen dazed by the spray, said: "I am too much in pain with what has happened. It has shamed us, our parliament is admired throughout the world, today it's a blot on us."
Security had been stepped up for the proceedings following suicide threats over the new bill.
Special ambulances were kept on standby and no visitors were allowed in the proceedings. Journalists had to go through a rigorous security check to enter parliament.
Protests were also staged outside parliament.
MPs are not frisked or checked when entering the parliament building. There are now calls for this to be changed.
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