Indian police detain dozens of protesters demanding release of top opposition leader Arvind Kejriwal

Policemen detain a member of Aam Admi Party, or Common Man's Party, during a protest against the arrest of their party leader Arvind Kejriwal in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, March 26, 2024. Indian police have detained dozens of opposition protesters and prevented them from marching to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s residence to demand the release of their leader and top elected official of New Delhi who was arrested last week in a liquor bribery case. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

Policemen detain a member of Aam Admi Party, or Common Man’s Party, during a protest against the arrest of their party leader Arvind Kejriwal in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, March 26, 2024. Indian police have detained dozens of opposition protesters and prevented them from marching to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s residence to demand the release of their leader and top elected official of New Delhi who was arrested last week in a liquor bribery case. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

NEW DELHI (AP) — Indian police detained dozens of opposition protesters Tuesday to stop them from marching to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s residence to demand the release of their leader and top elected official of New Delhi arrested last week in a bribery case.

Nearly 300 supporters of Arvind Kejriwal gathered at India’s Parliament House to begin their march. Policemen, some in riot gear, surrounded the protesters and detained some.

“Long Live Kejriwal” protesters chanted while being dragged and bundled into buses and driven away by the police. They are likely to be released later in the day.

“This is a dictatorship. If someone is doing good for the public of Delhi, why arrest such a person?” Rubina Parveen, a protester, told The Associated Press. “Our voices are muzzled. The public is very angry … If a good leader is sent to jail, then what will happen to the common public? she said.

Authorities have since banned the assembly of four or more people in the area that houses almost all key government buildings.

Kejriwal, one of the country’s most consequential politicians of the past decade and a top rival of Modi’s, was arrested on March 21. He and his Aaam Admi Party, or Common Man’s Party, are accused of accepting 1 billion rupees ($12 million) in bribes from liquor contractors nearly two years ago.

The party denied the accusations, saying they are fabricated by the federal agency, controlled by Modi’s government.

Kejriwal’s AAP is part of a broad alliance of opposition parties called INDIA, the main challenger to Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in the coming election.

Hundreds of Kejriwal’s supporters have been holding protests since his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate, the federal agency that probes economic offenses.

Kejriwal was taken into custody for seven days following a court order on Friday. His party said he would remain Delhi’s chief minister as it takes the case to court.

The federal agency accused Kejriwal of being the “kingpin and key conspirator” in the liquor bribery case. Kejriwal has refuted the allegations and accused the directorate of “manipulating investigative agencies for political motives”.

In the lead-up to the general election , starting April 19, India’s opposition parties have accused the government of misusing its power to harass and weaken its political opponents, pointing to a spree of raids, arrests and corruption investigations against key opposition figures.

Meanwhile, some probes against former opposition leaders who later defected to Modi’s BJP have been dropped.

BJP denies targeting the opposition and says law enforcement agencies act independently.

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