Agitating Cops Call Off 11-Hour Protest After Assurances; All Eyes on Review Petition in HC Today
Delhi Police personnel hold a candlelight protest at Delhi Police Headquarters. (PTI)
The protests were triggered by attacks on their colleagues outside Saket District Court and at Tis Hazari which led to at least 20 security personnel and several advocates being injured.
New Delhi: In unprecedented protests by the Delhi Police, thousands of its personnel on Tuesday laid siege to the police headquarters at ITO for 11 hours and staged a virtual revolt, bringing traffic in the area to a standstill. The stir was called off at night following multiple appeals, including from their chief and other senior officers, which promised that their demands would be addressed.
The protests, which were sparked by two attacks on police personnel, also witnessed the families of cops take to the streets and demand justice.
More than six appeals were made by senior police officers like Joint Commissioner of Police (Southern Range) Devesh Srivastva, Joint Commissioner of Police (New Delhi) Anand Mohan, Joint Commissioner of Police (Central) Rajesh Khurana, Special Commissioner of Delhi Police RS Krishnia, but the protestors did not budge.
The protesters ended their stir late in the evening after Special Commissioner of Police (Crime) Satish Golcha assured them that a review petition will be filed against the Delhi High Court order in connection with the police-lawyer clash at the Tis Hazari court complex, and ex gratia of at least Rs 25,000 will be given to the injured policemen. He assured the protesters that their demands are being looked into, but he was heckled by his juniors.
"We have always been told about two types of crowd. The unruly crowd and peaceful crowd. We are protectors of the world. Who will protect the nation? We will. But who will protect us? No one. We will have to protect ourselves," said a woman constable in her address to the gathering.
The Delhi Police has a strength of over 80,000 personnel.
Clashes between cops and advocates
The protests were triggered by the two attacks on their colleagues — the first one on Saturday at the Tis Hazari Courts Complex after a parking dispute between an on-duty policeman and a lawyer, which injured at least 20 security personnel and several advocates. The second attack took place on Monday outside the Saket District Court.
Ordering a judicial inquiry by one of its retired judges into the clash, the high court at a special sitting on November 3 had suspended a police official and transferred two senior police officials while the investigations are ongoing.
Two FIRs were registered against unidentified persons who were seen in a video hitting a uniformed policeman on a motorcycle and slapping him outside the Saket court.
Shouting slogans like "We Want Justice" and "Go Back, Go Back" as their senior officers appealed for calm, the surging crowd of protesters, some in uniform and some in civvies, gathered outside the headquarters on Tuesday morning. In the evening, one of the protesters read out the demands, including revoking the licences of those lawyers who assaulted policemen and quashing of FIRs against the cops.
"The entire nation is watching us today. Even if it takes a day or more, we will not leave the protest unless our demands our heard," one of the protesters said while addressing his colleagues. "Our only weakness is that we don't have an association. There is no one to listen to us. When we get thrashed, our seniors say, get medical aid and resume duty."
The agitating officers urged their co-workers, families and civilians to stand in solidarity with them. "You citizens are our family. If you think we have done even one percent of good to you, stand in solidarity with us," said a woman constable.
Those spearheading the agitation urged their colleagues to maintain peace. "We want our demands to be fulfilled in a peaceful manner," said one of them. "Everyone has an association, even IPS officers have their association. We also want one. We protect the citizens and politicians. We stand for them? Can't they stand for us at this hour?"
The family members of the police personnel gathered to protest at India Gate, about 2 km away from the police headquarters, in an effort to spread the agitation.
"Delhi Police officers are on duty round the clock so that the people can celebrate every festival without fear. But while making those sacrifices, they get thrashed on roads. Don't we have feelings or any rights?" said Munesh Dahiya, the wife of a police officer.
As the protests escalated, the Centre was understood to be unhappy over the manner in which it was held in violation of service conduct even though it is sympathetic to their grievances, said an official.
The Bar Council of India asked various bar bodies to identify lawyers "indulging in hooliganism" and requested advocates to end their protests, which are "bringing bad name to the institution".
The protesters did not relent despite several appeals by top police officers all through the day.
Police Commissioner Amulya Patnaik had also made an unsuccessful appeal to the protesters to end their stir.
"We have to behave like a disciplined force. The government and the people expect us to uphold the law, it is our big responsibility. I urge you to resume duty," Patnaik said as he was jeered by police personnel. "The last few days have been testing for us. A judicial inquiry is underway and I request you to have faith in the process."
As the protests continued, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said the Delhi government wants an immediate solution to the police-lawyer standoff and termed the prevailing situation "unfortunate".
Lieutenant General Anil Baijal also reviewed the situation. "In the wake of the recent unfortunate incident, it is imperative to restore the trust between the two and also to ensure that justice is done impartially in the entire matter," said a statement from his office.
'We're not punching bags'
Holding up placards with slogans such as "We are human in police uniforms", "We are not punching bags" and "Protectors Need Protection", the police personnel urged their seniors to stand with them to save the honour of the uniform.
"No police officer nor any politician went to the hospital to check on our injured colleagues. It is disappointing and demoralising for us," said a woman constable on condition of anonymity.
"Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal went to meet injured lawyers but did not meet our policemen who were also injured in the incident. Isn't it unfair to us?" asked a demonstrator.
Recalling similar clashes between lawyers and policemen way back in 1988, many in the crowd recalled former IPS officer Kiran Bedi who was then at the heart of the controversy. Some were carrying a big poster of Kiran Bedi who is now the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry, chanting slogans like "Kiran Bedi sherni hamari" and "Our Commissioner should be like Kiran Bedi".
Bedi, meanwhile, advised Delhi Police personnel to remain firm on their stand come what may.
The IAS Association as well as the IPS Associations in several states also extended their support to the protesters.
The Congress seized upon the protests to target the Centre, saying it is a "new low" for India since Independence and shows Home Minister Amit Shah's "failure of leadership". It alleged that law and order has collapsed in the national capital.
Terming the prevailing situation as "unfortunate", Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said the government wants an immediate solution to the standoff. The issue should have been handled at the appropriate time to avoid the conflict, he added.
The protests drew sharp criticism from senior police officials who took to Twitter to register their discontent.
Meanwhile, lawyers will continue to boycott work on Wednesday, notwithstanding a Bar Council of India appeal to end their strike, the chairman of coordination committee of All Bar Associations in Delhi said.
The Bar Council of India has also asked various bar bodies to identify lawyers "indulging in hooliganism" and requested advocates to end their protests, which are "bringing bad name to the institution".
(With inputs from agencies)