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Indian MP disrupts new state vote with pepper spray

Lower house suspends 17 members over incident

Indian MP disrupts new state vote with pepper spray

An unidentified member of India's parliament covers his eyes after a Congress Party MP emptied a cannister of pepper spray in opposition to the tabling of a new bill to create the state of Telangana on Thursday (AFP photo/Prakash Singh)

Swati Deb, New Delhi

February 14, 2014

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Chaos prevailed in India’s lower house of parliament on Thursday after a Congress Party MP used pepper spray to disrupt the introduction of a parliamentary bill seeking the creation of a new state.

A group of mostly Congress Party MPs opposed the introduction of the bill, which would partition Andhra Pradesh for the creation of Telangana state in southern India.

As federal Home Minister Sushiljumar Shinde prepared to introduce the bill, L Rajagopal emptied a cannister of pepper spray – forcing MPs, officials and journalists in the media gallery to flee the building.

“What happened today crossed all limits,” said the leader of the opposition Sushma Swaraj party, while his Rajya Sabha counterpart Arun Jaitley said the bizarre episode only reflects that the Congress-led coalition has lost the will to rule.

"Its a national shame," said Brinda Karat of Communist Party of India (Marxist).

Several lawmakers, some of whom were taken to hospital, alleged that the Congress Party has done long-lasting damage to the democratic process in India.

"Creating any new state will be a more difficult proposition now and in future. They have mortgaged the prestige of parliament for politics," said another opposition MP Shahnawaz Hussain.

Speaker Meira Kumar later suspended 17 MPs for five days and described the incident as a “blot on India's parliament”.

The creation of the new state of Telangana has been a contentious political issue. Decades of demands and politically backed movements led to the government’s announcement that it would create the state last year.

However, the decision set off demands in other regions for the creation of new states in eastern India, where ethnic Gorkhas and Bodos have stepped up efforts to establish a separate homeland.

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