New Delhi: The protests at India Gate against the gang-rape of 23-year-old medical student Amanat (NOT her real name) degenerated into a show of unrestrained excess by the demonstrators and the Delhi police on Sunday evening, leaving many policemen injured, one of them critically. Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, who met Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, blamed the Delhi Police for the breakdown in law and order.
Here are the latest developments:
- Mrs Dikshit said the Capital's law and order should be handed over to the Delhi government while the Centre can look after the security of VIPs. The Chief Minister said protecting VIPs could not be an excuse to neglect the security of people and suspending a few policemen in the gang-rape case was not enough.
- At Delhi's Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, doctors were battling to save Constable Subhash Tomar, who was critically injured in stone-pelting at India Gate. The Delhi Police said 78 policemen were injured in stone-pelting by hooligans who had joined the protesters. Around 65 protesters were injured.
- Police cleared India Gate of the protesters, largely young students, after the agitation turned violent towards the evening and appeared to have been taken over by hooligans and activists of fringe political outfits. A car was overturned and wooden seating planks laid out for the Republic Day parade were set afire by rowdy men. Police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse them.
- Till the afternoon, the protesters largely comprised students and other citizens holding placards and raising slogans against the medical student's gang-rape on a moving bus last Sunday night. Later outfits like the Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena, a member of which had recently attacked lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan, turned up. Yoga teacher Baba Ramdev arrived, standing atop a bus filled with his followers. Members of Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party and youth wings of several political outfits, including the BJP, joined the protests.
- A young woman protester alleged that several unruly people had landed up at the protest site and had attempted to manhandle and harass women. "We tried stopping them. They were using abusive language. When we asked them to back off, they refused. We also requested them not to throw water bottles at the police. Many of them were drunk and were eve-teasing. They came just to have fun," she alleged.
- Unruly elements, clearly not regular protesters, vandalised buses, smashing windows and deflating tyres, and blocked traffic. They stopped the car of MP and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit's son Sandeep Dikshit and heckled him before he was rescued by the police.
- India Gate swarmed with police and Rapid Action Force personnel in anti-riot gear. Several cordons of security were in place to stop people from going up to Rashtrapati Bhawan as happened on Saturday. The police told the protesters they can protest only at Ram Lila Maidan. Section 144 was extended across the 34-km stretch that is New Delhi district. The section prohibits a gathering of more than five people anywhere where it is in operation.
- Early on Sunday, a little after 6 am, about 60 protesters who had camped overnight at Vijay Chowk and some outside Congress chief Sonia Gandhi's residence, were evacuated, put in buses and driven away. But more protesters who had arrived at India Gate refused to budge. They got under buses, and clung to the vehicles and each other as the police tried to carry them away to the buses. Policemen were seen first requesting the belligerent protesters to move out.
- A group of five protesters met Congress president Sonia Gandhi later in the day and said she had assured them of action in the gang-rape case. They said they had been asked for their views on what measures new laws on rape and other crimes against women should include. Sources said Mrs Gandhi agreed with them that women need better security and that more needs to be done by the government. Rahul Gandhi joined the meeting and reportedly said they are all for bringing in changes but these could not be done in a very short span of time.
- Seven Metro stations near India Gate - Patel Chowk, Udyog Bhavan, Race Course, Central Secretariat, Khan Market, Barakhamba Road and Mandi House - were closed since 6 am to control the crowds at the protest site.