Violent rage over the gang-rape of a 23-year-old student spread to the heart of the city on Sunday, with thousands of men, women and children taking to streets around India gate, where they burned tyres and clashed with police, demanding immediate justice for the victim.
Police lobbed around 150 teargas shells and sprayed water canons at protestors in the evening to clear the swelling crowd that included some anti-social elements, who tried to break barricades, marching towards the Raisina hills that has now turned into India’s Tahrir Square. A group of frenzied protestors, allegedly drunk, uprooted wooden barricades erected for the Republic Day parade and set them ablaze, prompting cops to use baton-charge. According to the police, 72 agitators and 78 cops were injured. At least 25 vehicles — 12 buses, 12 PCR vans and a Doordarshan vehicle — were damaged.
“They came with an intention to create trouble. We have requested TV channels on the spot to provide us with footages to identify the hooligans. They will be charged for rioting and causing damage to public property,” a police official said.
Soon after the clashes, several protestors demanded the Delhi CoP’s head. Many journalists also bore the brunt of the violence. Protestors carried out peaceful marches in Ghaziabad, Noida and Gurgaon as well.
Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit condemned police action and said that protest is the legal right of every citizen and that it was a wake-up call for the political establishment: “I appeal to the people to protest peacefully. Police should not react in situation where protestors are expressing their emotions. We are not a dictatorship. We should respect people’s emotions.”
Some protestors — mostly college students stayed put at Raisina Hills and Sonia Gandhi’s residence on 10 Janpath throughout the night and could only be evacuated in the morning after police issued prohibitory order under Section 144. Police urged protestors to clear Rajpath and stage demonstrations either at Jantar Mantar or Ramlila Maidan.
In its report sent to the Union Home Ministry, Delhi Police, citing intelligence inputs claimed that some groups affiliated to political outfits joined protestors on Sunday and instigated violence. Ironically, some of them misbehaved with women agitators, prompting swift action from cops who resorted to repeated baton charges and lobbing of teargas.