NEW DELHI – A lawmaker sprayed pepper spray inside India's Parliament on Thursday, creating chaos that left his colleagues coughing and crying as they were ushered from the hall, in a protest over a long-contentious proposal to create a new southern state.
Lawmakers had been set to vote on whether to create Telangana state from the mostly poor, inland districts of Andhra Pradesh. For months as it has been drafted, the plan has inspired passionate protests and arguments for keeping the state unified. A key point of contention has been the proposal to include wealthy tech and industrial hub Hyderabad within Telangana.
To stop the bill from coming to a vote, Congress party lawmaker L. Rajagopal from Andhra Pradesh unleashed pepper spray from the main speaking zone in the Parliament.
"I have a lot of respect for Indian democracy. I want to prevent the bill. So I pulled the mike," Rajagopal told reporters outside Parliament.
Several members attempted to subdue Rajagopal, leading to a scuffle on the Parliament floor before he was eventually expelled from the day's proceedings.
One parliament member was rushed to a hospital, but no information was available about his condition by late evening.
Speaker Meira Kumar adjourned the session, calling the turmoil "a blot."
"I am too much in pain at what has happened," she said.
One top Congress party official, Digvijay Singh, called it a "sad day in the history of Parliament" that had "put Indian democracy in shame."