Congress leaders and workers took to the streets on Monday in Delhi and various state capitals as Rahul Gandhi appeared before the Enforcement Directorate in New Delhi for questioning in the National Herald case, with the opposition party accusing the Modi government of 'trampling on democracy'.
Hundreds were detained for violating prohibitory orders in the national capital, where several top leaders had converged, and other cities as they tried to march to ED offices despite heavy barricading by the police and protested against the agency's summons to the former Congress chief.
The opposition party alleged that some of its leaders were manhandled by the police and hit out at the government for 'not allowing' peaceful protests.
Prominent among those detained in the national capital were Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge, Randeep Surjewala, K C Venugopal, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Digvijaya Singh, Mukul Wasnik, Jairam Ramesh and many others.
Top Congress leaders accused the Bharatiya Janata Party government of misusing probe agencies to target opposition leaders and said the country is watching everything.
The party claimed it was starting Mahatma Gandhi's 'Satyagraha', peaceful resistance, again with the march against the Modi government and vowed not to bow down.
The BJP hit back at the opposition party, alleging that the show of strength by the Congress is aimed at putting pressure on the ED and its leaders were celebrating corruption.
Targeting the Centre over the recent incidents of violence, Gehlot alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was 'too arrogant' and did not care about the people of the country and had successfully been able to divide people into religious lines.
"Instead of appealing to the country for maintaining peace and shunning any kind of violence, the PM and Home Minister Amit Shah are using ED, CBI and other agencies against the opposition," he charged.
Baghel said the opposition cannot be targeted like this in a democracy.
"All leaders from Kerala to Kashmir are being targeted...Democracy is being throttled and we oppose it strongly," he alleged.
Gehlot said the case is in court and their objection is to bring in the ED 'wrongly' in the matter.
"Till when will you trouble people. The matter is serious and I would appeal to the youth that democracy is in danger... The entire country is watching and in the coming times, we will not budge or bow down and the BJP will have to suffer due to this," he said.
The Rajasthan chief minister said he had also made a request to directors of ED, CBI and CBDT Chairman to convey what the entire country thought about the three premier agencies, but they did not meet him after initially responding positively.
"Gandhian Satyagraha will start again today. A new revolution will begin against a coward Modi government," Surjewala said.
Asked whether the Congress would stage a similar show of strength on June 23 when Sonia Gandhi has been asked to appear before ED, Gehlot said, "The Congress is competent to deal with the situation".
He also claimed that 13 parties have appealed to the prime minister to address the nation and denounce any kind of violence, but the ruling dispensation does not pay heed to the opposition.
"What is the problem if the prime minister says something...That is why there are riots and violence in the country and bulldozers are being used," he said.
Gandhi, 51, earlier arrived at the probe agency in central Delhi a little after 11 AM after he started from the Congress office on Akbar Road accompanied by a large convoy of party leaders including Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Ashok Gehlot and Baghel.
Due to the barricading, Gandhi took a detour to reach the probe agency's office.
This is the first time that Gandhi has appeared before a central probe agency for questioning in a case.
Gandhi was questioned by the probe agency for over three hours and got a lunch break, during which he met his mother Sonia Gandhi at the Gangaram Hospital where she has been admitted. He was again questioned for several hours after lunch.
Congress MPs and workers had earlier assembled at the All India Congress Committee headquarters where Surjewala announced they would march peacefully towards the ED office and if they were stopped, they would court arrest.
Raising slogans in support of Gandhi, Congress workers started a march towards the ED office with Gandhi but were stopped by the police which had put up barricades all around the AICC office.
A large number of workers were taken into preventive custody for violating the provisions of Section 144 CrPC banning assembly of more than four persons, which was imposed in central Delhi.
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Baghel claimed, "I have been arrested...you should ask the Delhi Police why I have been arrested," he told reporters outside the ED office.
"This is a dictatorship. Several Congress workers have been detained because they wanted to carry out a peaceful march. I am also being detained. This is unprecedented that Congress workers were not allowed to enter the Congress headquarters," Baghel said.
Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala alleged that 'thousands' of party workers have been arrested and compared the Modi government to the British imperialists.
The police, however, clarified that Baghel is being detained and not arrested as he refused to leave despite several warnings.
Surjewala said Congress leaders had done nothing wrong and alleged that 'Godse's descendants fear from the truth and they will not be able to suppress the truth. Godse's descendants could not defeat Gandhi and will not succeed in doing so even today'.