Amid high drama, a delegation sent by the Trinamool Congress to assess the situation in Assam post-National Register of Citizens was stopped at the airport in Silchar on Thursday and the members taken under preventive detention later, prompting West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee to cry foul and allege the Bharatiya Janata Party of imposing "super emergency" in the country.
The members were taken under preventive detention under 151 CrPC (arrest to prevent the commission of cognisable offences), additional director general of police Mukesh Agarwala said.
The TMC leaders would be sent back on Friday to West Bengal, he said.
Asked whether they would stay at the airport overnight, he said the police was looking into the protocol.
Banerjee condemned the incident and claimed her partymen were manhandled at the airport.
She also accused the BJP of imposing "super emergency" in the country and "showing muscle power".
The issue also figured in Lok Sabha when TMC members, led by senior leader Saugata Ray, protested the detention of four party MPs and demanded a response from the government in the House.
Trinamool Congress MPs Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, Arpita Ghosh, Mamata Thakur, Sukhendu Sekhar Roy and Nadimul Haque besides state minister Firhad Hakim and MLA Mohua Maitra were detained.
"Assam Police has detained them at Silchar Airport. They (Assam Police) were interfering with the free movement of people. This is a breach of privilege," Ray said, adding, "We want the government's response on this."
Ray said he will bring a privilege motion against the Assam government in Lok Sabha.
Banerjee said that the BJP stands exposed by this incident and sought to know under which law the TMC delegation was stopped at the airport.
Arriving in Kolkata from Delhi, where she met a number of opposition leaders, she told reporters that Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh assured her that no one would be harassed on the NRC issue.
"But the TMC delegates have not been allowed to go out of the (Silchar) airport. They have been manhandled. Even women members have not been spared," she claimed.
"There is super emergency in the country. The BJP is politically exposed. They (BJP) are showing muscle power. They are suppressing facts. If there is peace (in Assam), why did they impose prohibitory order? The people of Assam are in panic," Banerjee said.
Meanwhile, two more FIRs were lodged in Assam against Banerjee for her alleged instigating remarks threatening the unity of the country and her alleged attempt to create unrest in the state, Assam director general of police Kuladhar Saikia said.
Another FIR was lodged against her in Lakhimpur district on Wednesday.
According to Roy, the police stopped them at the Silchar airport saying their visit might create trouble and manhandled them.
"It's murder of democracy. We were not allowed to go out," he said.
The TMC leaders were supposed to hold a meeting at an auditorium at Silchar.
The Cachar district administration last night issued prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC.
However, district administration sources said the prohibitory order has nothing to do with the visit of the TMC delegation.
ADGP (special branch) Pallab Bhattacharya said that security has been beefed up at Silchar.
"We will take whatever measures needed for maintenance of law and order," he said.
Wondering why they were stopped, Roy told a TV channel, "They manhandled us, including our women members. I am a heart patient. We have come here to talk to those people whose names were deleted. We are not here to create any trouble. But they have not allowed us."
"BJP president Amit Shah will go to Bengal. We will not stop him," he said.
The complete draft of the NRC, touted to be a proof of Assamese citizenship, was published on Monday and excluded 40 lakh people.
Ghosh Dastidar alleged that they were stopped and police could not show them any order in this regard.
In a related development, Assam Trinamool Congress president Dwipen Pathak and two other party leaders resigned in protest against Banerjee's opposition to the final draft of the NRC.
Reacting to the visit of the TMC delegation, student leader and All Assam Students Union general secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi claimed that Mamata Banerjee is playing votebank politics.
Effigies of Banerjee were burnt in Charaideo and Sonitpur districts in the Brahmaputra Valley by students' organisations, who warned the TMC supremo and her party "not to meddle in Assam".
West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh also supported the Assam government's move to stop the TMC delegation.
"The TMC government did not allow us to go Basirhat in the past. They don't give us our democratic rights. They have no business to talk about democracy. They have gone there (Silchar) to create civil war," he said adding "They are enacting a drama".
A statement issued by the TMC said, "They (the team) had not gone there to break the law. Yet, they were beaten up. Senior MPs were pushed and shoved. Female MPs were manhandled.
"Is this democracy? This is Super Emergency. The issue was raised in Lok Sabha. Rajya Sabha was adjourned for the day (on this issue)," the statement said.
TMC chief national spokesperson Derek O'Brien claimed that though the police had informed the members of the delegation that they would not be allowed to move out as the situation is tense outside, police could not show any restraining order to prove its claims.
"They are not law-breakers but lawmakers," O'Brien told reporters in New Delhi.