Trinamool Congress general secretary Abhishek Banerjee and several other party leaders were detained on Tuesday night as they held a dharna at the Union Rural Development Ministry office in New Delhi demanding a meeting with the minister and released around three hours later.
Speaking to reporters after his release, Abhishek Banerjee alleged that TMC leaders, including women, were 'manhandled' by Delhi Police.
"They were pulled by their hair and dragged out," he claimed.
"Today is a black day for Indian democracy," he said.
In a post on X, TMC president and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said Tuesday's events revealed the Bharatiya Janata Party's 'disdain' for the people of the state.
The development came as the tug-of-war between the Centre and the West Bengal government over the release of funds to the state intensified with the TMC holding protests in the national capital for the second consecutive day.
Abhishek Banerjee, along with party lawmakers, state ministers and supporters including MGNREGA workers, protested at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, a day after they held a two-hour sit-in at the Rajghat on Mahatma Gandhi's birth anniversary before being evicted by the police.
They later took out a march to the Rural Development Ministry at the Krishi Bhawan, where they had an appointment with Minister of State Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti.
However, around an hour and a half after going to the Bhawan, TMC leaders claimed that the MoS refused to meet them saying she would not meet more than five representatives.
The TMC leaders, who had brought with them bundles of letters addressed to the prime minister and the rural development minister, refused to leave till the MoS met them.
Led by Abhishek Banerjee, a group of TMC leaders sat on a dharna, which continued till around 9 pm, after which they were detained by the police and evicted from the ministry premises.
The Trinamool Congress claimed that the phones of some leaders were also taken by the police.
The party leaders were released from detention around midnight.
After his release, Abhishek Banerjee said Tuesday's incident will stand as an example of 'New India' where public representatives were 'dragged and manhandled' by Delhi Police and journalists questioning the government were booked under the anti-terror law Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
"We were given the time of 6 pm. The minister met a BJP leader and made us wait. At 8:30 pm, she left through the back door," he alleged.
He slammed Delhi Police for "manhandling" elected representatives, including women.
"The way Delhi Police officials behaved today... MPs were pulled by their hair and dragged out. An MP is elected by lakhs of people. BJP's Zamindar in Raj Bhavan is nominated. Dragging and manhandling them... Mahua Moitra, Dola Sen, the way they were grabbed by their hands and legs, and dragged into police vans, people will reply to it," he said.
The TMC general secretary also hit out at the BJP.
"You are snatching the rights of the people of Bengal because you lost in Bengal. The BJP has lost all elections in Bengal and that is why they have stopped the money of the people," he said.
TMC president and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also condemned the police action against her party's leaders.
'Today is a dark, sinister day for democracy, a day when @BJP4India revealed their disdain for the people of Bengal, their disregard for the rights of the poor and a complete abandonment of democratic values,' she posted on X.
'First, they callously withheld crucial funds meant for the poor of Bengal and when our delegation arrived in Delhi, determined to peacefully protest and draw attention to the plight of our people, they were met with brutality - first at Rajghat and then at Krishi Bhavan,' she said.
Mamata Banerjee said Delhi Police acted as the 'BJP's strong-arm' and 'shamelessly manhandled' TMC leaders.
"... our representatives... were forcibly removed and whisked away in police vans like common criminals, all because they dared to speak truth to power. Their (BJP's) arrogance knows no bounds and their pride and egotism have blinded them. They have now crossed all limits to repress the voice of Bengal," she said.
Nationalist Congress Party leader Supriya Sule termed the eviction of TMC leaders from Krishi Bhawan 'outrageous' and said the government's refusal to heed to MPs is regrettable.
Earlier, addressing the protesters at Jantar Mantar, Abhishek Banerjee said their party's elected representatives will forgo their salaries to pay MGNREGA workers and the payments will be made within two months even if the Centre does not pay their dues.
He also accused the Centre of trying to stall their protest.
"Yesterday they sent around 5,000 to 10,000 police personnel, RAF and other forces to stop 50 leaders of the TMC. Today as well the number of security personnel here makes it appear as if India-China war is going on here," said Abhishek Banerjee, flanked by party leaders holding placards on the stage.
"There are 70,000 elected representatives from Trinamool in Bengal. We will forego a month's salary and ensure that these 2,500 people get their money before November 30. I promise you that these people will get their money within two months," he said.
He also said the Union government is spending thousands of crores of rupees on planes and the new Parliament building, but is not paying dues to workers.
The TMC leader accused the central government of trying to threaten the protesters and said despite all its efforts, the Centre could not stop the TMC.
Lok Sabha MP from Krishnanagar Mahua Moitra alleged the Centre is collecting taxes from West Bengal, but not giving the state's dues. "We have not come here to beg but for our rights... Mamata Banerjee is fighting not only for Bengal but for the people of the entire country," the firebrand leader said.
The ruling TMC in West Bengal has accused the BJP-led NDA government of withholding Rs 15,000 crore in dues to the state under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and the PM Awas Yojana.
The BJP has rejected the charge and accused the TMC of doing a "drama" in Delhi to divert attention from the scams in West Bengal.
Demanding the release of funds by the Centre, West Bengal Minister of Rural Development Pradip Mazumdar said Rural Development Minister Giriraj Singh, in a meeting with him on November 7, 2022, had assured that the funds would be released.
"There is no difference between the poor people of Begusarai (Giriraj Singh's constituency) and Bengal," Mazumdar said.
On Monday, at a press conference held in his constituency Begusarai, Giriraj Singh alleged the Centre's money was "siphoned off" by the state government.
The minister said over 25 lakh job cards have been deleted in the state and added that the Centre was contemplating ordering a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe.