An unidentified member of India's Parliament, holding a handkerchief to his face after being affected by pepper spray, leaves parliament after protests inside the building in New Delhi, yesterday. Photo: AFP
India's parliament erupted in chaos yesterday over a bill to create a new state, as angry MPs came to blows and pulled out a microphone and one pepper-sprayed the chamber.
Holding banners and shouting slogans, lawmakers disrupted the lower house of parliament as the Congress-led government introduced the contentious bill to carve a new state out of the existing Andhra Pradesh.
Legislators opposed to the new state of Telangana tried to rip out the speaker's microphone while one unleashed a can of capsicum spray, prompting a rush for the exit, TV channels reported.
Several lawmakers climbed into ambulances suffering breathing problems before reportedly being taken to hospital.
Small fights also flared between MPs opposed to the bill and several trying to stop the chaos and restore order, as the parliament -- known for its disruptions -- was adjourned, the Press Trust of India (PTI) said.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath slammed the unrest as a "big blot on our parliamentary democracy" and called for the strongest possible action against the offending MPs.
"It is the most shameful day in our parliamentary history," Nath told reporters outside parliament.
Seventeen MPs were suspended from the house over the behaviour, which also saw lawmakers rip up official papers and smash a glass. Others wore black blindfolds as a sign of protest, PTI said.
In the confusion one MP from Andhra Pradesh, who opposes Telangana, was accused of brandishing a knife in the chamber, a claim he denied.
Cabinet last week approved the creation of Telangana from the southeastern state of Andhra Pradesh, after a decades-long and sometimes violent campaign.
Mainly tribal groups have demanded Telangana be carved out of a northern, impoverished and drought-prone part of Andhra Pradesh, which supporters say has long been neglected by successive state governments.
But wealthier regions of Andhra Pradesh, home to IT giants including Google and Microsoft in its capital Hyderabad, have strongly opposed the split because they say it would create economic upheaval.
Outside parliament, ugly clashes broke out between supporters of the Telangana state and police, an AFP photographer said.
A demonstrator demanding a separate state of Telangana is detained by policemen outside the parliament building. Photo: AFP
Police dragged away protesters and bundled them into buses.
Congress has denied trying to seek any political advantage from splitting Andhra Pradesh, insisting it is trying to fulfil a longstanding pledge.