Telangana: Indian MP uses pepper spray in parliament

Indian MP L Rajagopal Image copyright AP
Image caption MP L Rajagopal told reporters he used the pepper spray in parliament in self-defence

There has been chaos in the lower house of India's parliament after an MP used pepper spray to disrupt proceedings.

The MP from the governing Congress party, L Rajagopal, was protesting against a plan to create the new state of Telangana in southern India.

Some members had to be taken to hospital. Mr Rajagopal was suspended along with several other MPs.

The parliament has often witnessed unruly scenes but what happened on Thursday morning is unprecedented.

Mr Rajagopal smashed a glass and used pepper spray on his colleagues when Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde tried to table the bill to create Telangana, which will be carved out of Andhra Pradesh state.

Some unconfirmed reports said another MP pulled out a knife. Several other MPs were reportedly involved in clashes with their opponents.

Mr Rajagopal told Indian media he had acted in self-defence after being attacked.

The Press Trust of India (PTI) reported that four ambulances were called in and an unspecified number of MPs were taken to hospital.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The parliament has often witnessed unruly scenes but what happened on Thursday morning was unprecedented
Image copyright AFP
Image caption An MP leaves parliament, holding a handkerchief to his face, after being affected by pepper spray
Image copyright AFP
Image caption The Speaker of the lower house Meira Kumar also left coughing. Later, she suspended Mr Rajagopal and several other MPs
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Pro and anti-Telangana supporters also held protests outside the parliament

Indian television showed members of parliament leaving the colonial-era building coughing and spluttering, some wiping their eyes.

"Members tried to use gas in the house... gas the house... I did not see, but I am informed that there was a knife, there was gas, there were other kinds of weapons," PTI quoted Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath as saying.

"The circumstances and incidents which took place in the house are a big blot on our parliamentary democracy. " he added.

The entire session of the current parliament - which began on 5 February - has been disrupted by those against the creation of Telangana.

Telangana, with a population of 35 million, would comprise 10 of Andhra Pradesh's 23 districts, including the city of Hyderabad.

Backers of the new state say the area has been neglected by the government.

Those against the idea are unhappy that Hyderabad, home to many major information technology and pharmaceutical companies, would become a shared state capital for 10 years after which it would remain with Telangana while Andhra Pradesh would have to develop a new capital.

Last month, lawmakers of the Congress party, which governs Andhra Pradesh, opposed a proposal to split the state.

The move was seen as an embarrassment for the federal government. A final decision on the state rests with the parliament.

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