India has reacted sharply to the American advice on its handling of protests. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) termed the comments by the U.S. State Department spokesperson “needless.”

The U.S. counsel came in response to a question at its State Department's daily briefing. The spokesperson was asked whether Washington was worried about police brutality against “people who are having peaceful demonstrations against corruption, against the corrupt Indian politicians.”

The spokesperson said Washington counted on India “to exercise appropriate democratic restraint in the way it deals with peaceful protests.''

MEA spokesperson Vishnu Prakash said: “We have seen the needless comments by the U.S. State Department spokesperson on handling of peaceful protests in India. Freedom of speech and expression, as well as, of peaceful assembly, are enshrined in the Constitution of India and exercised by citizens of this country of 1.2 billion people.''

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland had prefaced her comments to which India took objection by observing that the U.S. supported the right of peaceful, non-violent protest around the world.

The question was asked in the context of an indefinite fast here by social activist Anna Hazare and his supporters from August 16. Mr. Hazare has threatened to stop drinking water if the government arrested or tried to force feed him. It also referred to “daily protests'' that are met by police violence, in an apparent reference to this week's firing in Pune that killed four protesters.

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