Violence at India Gate; Cops, protesters injured

NEW DELHI, Dec 23: Hooligans and some political elements today hijacked the peaceful protests in the Capital over the gang-rape of a young girl resulting in violence and attacks against public property and police which retaliated with teargas and water cannons that led to injuries to persons on both sides.
A total of 78 policemen and 65 protesters were injured in the violence as protests at the Central Vista entered the third day prompting clamping of prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC in New Delhi district banning assembly of four or more persons. The Vista is the 3-km broad avenue from India Gate that leads to Raisina hill, which is home to PMO, Rastrapati Bhawan and Home Ministry among other government offices.
One of the injured policeman-Constable Subash Tomar-is fighting for his life at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar told said tonight. Joint Commissioner (Central) Taj Hasan was among the injured. Some mediamen were also injured in the violence.
Police fired 250 teargas shells, repeatedly used water cannons and resorted to baton charge to disperse the protesters.
Special Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Dharmendra Kumar blamed “hooligans” for the violence during protests against the gangrape of 23-year-old girl in a moving bus last Sunday night and said unruly elements have “hijacked” peaceful demonstrations.
He said at least 25 vehicles — 12 DTC buses, 12 PCR vans and a Doordarshan vehicle-were damaged.
Delhi Police in its report to Union Home Ministry said that some “vested interests” had joined the protesters and were instigating violence.
Protesters led by yoga guru Ramdev and former Army chief V K Singh clashed with police at Jantar Mantar, this afternoon when they were prevented from marching towards India Gate.
Aam Aadmi Party’s Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia sat on a dharna near Hyderabad House on Ashoka Road, close to India Gate. The youth outfit of BJP also took part in the protests.
Kumar disclosed that a former Chief Justice of India will constitute the Commission of Inquiry that will go into the gangrape incident, lapses by police and measures to be taken to ensure safety of women in Delhi and other parts of the country.
Mediapersons, who were covering protests, also faced the brunt of police action with cops spraying water cannons on scribes and their equipment and even beating up some of them.
As protests reached a crescendo in the evening, media persons covering the protest at India Gate were allegedly targeted by the police.
A senior journalist of a leading English newspaper was beaten up despite showing his identity card. The injured journalist was taken to hospital.
A woman reporter and a cameraperson of separate English news channels suffered injuries when teargas shells exploded near them.
Meanwhile, Breaking his silence on the Delhi gangrape issue amid continuing protests, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tonight said the public anger is “genuine” and “justified” but appealed for peace while promising all steps to ensure safety of women in the country.
He said everybody was concerned for the 23-year-old victim who was brutally gangraped in a moving bus on Sunday last.
Singh also expressed sadness over the turn of events that led to clashes between the angry protesters and the police and appealed for peace and calm.
“We are all joined in our concern for the young woman who was the victim of a heinous crime in Delhi. There is genuine and justified anger and anguish at this ghastly incident. We are constantly monitoring her medical condition. Let us all pray for her and her loved ones during this critical time,” Singh said in a statement late tonight.
He said, “I feel deeply sad at the turn of events leading to clashes between protesters and police forces. I appeal to all concerned citizens to maintain peace and calm.”
Assuring safety and security of women across the country, Singh said, “I assure you that we will make all possible efforts to ensure security and safety to all women in this country. I seek the cooperation of all sections of the society to help us in this endeavour and maintain peace.”
The Government tonight issued a notification for reviewing the present laws to provide speedier justice and enhanced punishment in cases of aggravated sexual assault.
Announcing this, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said government is serious about taking stringent action against those involved in the Delhi gangrape case at the earliest.
“The notification reflects how serious the government is. I assure the country that we are serious,” he told reporters here.
Shinde said police had to resort to lathicharge against protesting students today at India Gate and its surrounding areas when they indulged in violence in which 18-20 policemen were injured.
One of the injured policeman is in critical condition, he said.
“Besides, Russian President Vladimir Putin is arriving in Delhi tomorrow. There should not be any such protest when he is visiting India. We are trying our best to cooperate with the students, but… No such picture should go out of the country for which India would come under criticism from the outside world. I again appeal to the students to maintain peace,” he said.
After issuing the notification, the government also announced constitution of a three-member committee headed by former Chief Justice of India J S Verma
The other members of the committee are Justice (retd) Leila Seth (former Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh High Court) and former Solicitor General of India Gopal Subramanian.
The panel will give recommendations for reviewing the laws related to sexual assault.
It will look into possible amendments to criminal law for providing quicker trial and enhanced punishment for criminals accused of committing sexual assault of extreme nature against women.
Hours after police crackdown on students protesting against the Delhi gangrape, Minister of State for Home R P N Singh tonight apologised to those who were injured during the clashes but said the police action came due to the violence perpetrated by “lumpen elements”.
Singh said there was no reason for the students to continue the protests as Government accepted all their demands including putting the case in a fast track court and carrying out day-to-day hearing.
“I apologise to all those who injured in police action today. We did not want police beating our own students. But the police action came as some lumpen elements indulged in violence. Anti-social elements were involved in the violence,” he told reporters here.
The Minister said 99 per cent students were protesting peacefully and just one per cent were indulging in violence which led to the police crackdown in India Gate and its surrounding areas.
“I assure you that the culprits involved in Delhi case will be punished. They will not get away. Not only in this case, in all rape cases anywhere in India, we are taking action,” he said.
Asked whether action will be taken against the Delhi Police Commissioner or any other senior police officer, Singh said “if there is any lapse, we will take strictest action against any police officer, no matter how senior he is.”
Meanwhile, the 23-year-old gang-rape victim underwent a “small operation” today after medical examination suggested fluid collection in her abdomen and was put on ventilator again as doctors said she was critical and not out of danger.
Doctors at the Safdarjung Hospital, where she is battling for life after she was attacked brutally on Sunday night last, said the victim’s platelet count is fluctuating since yesterday and it stood at a low 19,000 during the last observation. A normal platelet count in a healthy individual is between 150,000 and 450,000 per micro-litre of blood.
“Yesterday night she complained of pain in abdomen and respiratory distress. Her respiratory rate has increased and a team of doctors thoroughly examined her and conducted ultrasound and CT scan on her. She underwent a small operation today because of this,” Dr B D Athani, Medical Superintendent of the hospital, told reporters here.
He said sepsis, a severe blood infection that can lead to organ failure, was one of the major concerns and noted that the bilirubin level has increased to 6.3 from yesterday’s 5.9.
As the girls’ platelet level is fluctuating, doctors would administer another four bottles of platelet-rich plasma to the girl, who is also suffering from high fever.
Doctors said the pain was part of sepsis and clarified that her lungs were clear.
Athani said the victim, who was taken off ventilator since Friday, was put on ventilator again due to the operation and she will be put on ventilator electively so that her condition improves.
Another doctor Sunil Jain said since the high dose of anti-biotic was not giving satisfactory results they went for ultrasound.
“It was an abdomen wash and we are keeping a close watch on her. We are checking whether there is infection. She is stable and fully conscious and also communicating,” he said.
The doctors said she may need further investigation and that the girl tolerated the operation.
“She is still not out of danger. We need to watch her for the next few days,” he said.
Jain said the girl was given some sips of water and physiotherapy treatment has started.
Dr M C Mishra of AIIMS said she was critical and was still in the ICU. “We will watch her for the next few days,” he said.
In an unprecedented move, the Delhi High Court today directed day-to-day trial in all sexual assault cases against women being heard by lower courts, saying the recent “brutal gangrape” incident here has “shaken” the entire nation.
“… The Administrative Committee (of HC) has resolved to issue directions to all Additional Sessions Judges in Delhi that cases of sexual assault on women will be tried on day-to-day basis from the date of commencement of the trial,” the Registrar General of the High Court said in a statement today.
The release also said that a bench headed by Chief Justice D Murugesan has already taken “suo motu cognisance” of the incident on the “judicial side”.
“The recent brutal gang rape in Delhi has shaken the entire nation. There is widespread outrage in the Capital and the Delhi High Court has also taken a very serious view of the matter. The Delhi High Court has already taken suo motu cognisance of the matter on the judicial side…,” it said.
The administrative committee of the High Court, headed by the Chief Justice, has already accepted the Delhi Government’s proposal to establish five special fast track courts to deal with the sexual assaults cases against women, it said.
The steps would be taken to operationalise them after the winter vacation.
Meanwhile, a former Chief Justice of India will constitute the Commission of Inquiry which will go into the gangrape of a 23-year-old girl in a moving bus here, lapses by police and measures to be taken to ensure safety of women in Delhi and other parts of the country.
This was disclosed today by Special Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Dharmendra Kumar here today at a press conference during which he also said the Government has also set up a three-member committee, which has former Chief Justice of India J S Verma as one of its members, to examine the possibility of enhancing punishment for rape laws.
He also said for fast track action in this incident, senior High Court lawyer Dyan Krishnan will be a Special Prosecutor and ensure that the trial is finished in a short time.
On the demand for action against those responsible for not why the girl could not be protected, Kumar said, “a Commission of Inquiry has been set up under a very senior retired Supreme Court Chief Justice.
“The former CJI is going to inquire into the entire episode as to why this thing happened and why it could not be prevented and what measures should be taken in Delhi and the rest of the country to improve the safety of women and also even to look into whether there were lapses or not,” he said.
For enhancement of punishment for rape, he said the committee, which was set up to look into the matter has Verma, Justice Lalita Seth and former Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam as its members.
“Within a short time, they will examine the possibility of enhancing punishment for rape laws,” Kumar said.
On the youth groups’ third demand for fast track action, he said lawyer Krishnan has volunteered to come forward as a Special Prosecutor and he will do a day-to-day prosecution in this matter and ensure that the trial is finished in a short time.
“All the main demands of the public have been met. So we have been requesting to maintain calm and peace and not be hijacked,” he said.
Kumar said the Government has met all demands of protesters and if they want to continue with their stir, it should be peaceful.
“There are many kind of hooligans who are part of this protest who are aiming at various kinds of benefits from this violence. We don’t understand this violence and breaking of barricades and damaging vehicles when demands are already met.
“Hooligans have hijacked public sentiments and peaceful protest. What is the purpose? Please allow us to work on the issues. All the focus is now at this (containing this violence). Allow us to do our work,” he said.
He said all the main demands of the public have been met and that they are requesting people to maintain calm and peace and “not be hijacked”.
“I appeal to the public to maintain calm and peace because this peaceful agitation which was organised by ‘janta’ has been hijacked by anti-social elements. They have broken the law, they have damaged vehicles, damaged public property,” Kumar said.
Congress today appealed for calm with party President Sonia Gandhi assuring a group of youths that all steps will be taken to fast-track the case so that the assailants get punishment.
Rahul Gandhi is reported to have told the group that decisions cannot be driven by emotions and that they should be taken in a “rational” manner.
Sonia and Rahul, an AICC General Secretary, had an over 90 minute-long meeting with a group of protesters at her 10 Janpath residence during which Minister of State for Home Affairs R P N Singh and Congress spokesperson Renuka Chaudhury were also present.
“A group of seven persons placed their demands, we also noted down their suggestions and also briefed them about the steps the Government has taken so far. We had told them that there is a need to maintain calm and the Government is committed to take all steps,” Singh said.
Sonia is learnt to have expressed agreement with the contention of the protesters that there is a need to do much more to instill a sense of security among women and that the incident has indeed created a fear among them.
She is also learnt to have assured the youths that all steps will be taken to fast-track the case so that the perpetrators of the ghastly crime on the 23-year-old girl in a moving bus last Sunday night get punishment.
Sonia also nodded in the affirmative when the youths told them that there is an urgent need to sensitise the police forces.
Sources said during the meeting Rahul told the group of youths that while he understands and respect their emotions and acknowledged that the issue is very emotive, he also stressed that “decision making should happen in a rational manner. Decisions taken cannot be driven merely by emotions”.
Rahul also told the youths to come out with rational suggestions to ensure that such incidents are prevented and perpetrators of such crime are given punishment in a short period of time.
Today’s meeting in the morning came hours after Sonia came out of her residence shortly after midnight to meet a bigger group of protesters that had gathered there.
She sat among the protesters on the ground and talked to them for close to 20 minutes. She had told them that she would be willing to meet their delegation in the morning.
“I am with you…And justice will be delivered,” Sonia had told them.
BJP leader Sushma Swaraj today called for an all-party meeting and made an appeal to youths not to resort to violence, saying this is not the solution.
Swaraj said she had spoken to Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde in the evening on the need for convening the meeting to “resolve the situation.”
“Please do not resort to violence. That is not the solution. It is our country. This is our problem. We will definitely find a solution,” Swaraj posted on microblogging site Twitter.
“My young friends : We appreciate your feelings. Your anger is genuine. But please give us some time,” she posted.
The Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha also suggested that Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit should undertake night patrols of the city and visit police stations.
“When I took over as the Chief Minister of Delhi, the law and order situation was very bad. I promised people ‘Main raat ko jagoongi taki Delhi wale chain se so saken’.
I used to patrol the city and Police stations whole night. The newspaper headlines changed. Delhi CM should do precisely this,” she said. Swaraj was Delhi Chief Minister between October 13 and December three in 1998.
Demanding accountability of senior police officers in the gang-rape incident, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit today wanted immediate setting up of fast-track courts to try rape cases with provisions in the law even for death penalty in rare cases like the one that rocked the Capital last week.
She also called for a “serious look” at VIP security deployment in the Capital, saying it cannot be an “excuse” for not providing security to the common man.
After a meeting of her Cabinet, she met Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and presented him a letter containing the decisions of the Cabinet on ensuring better security for women in the capital.
She said that suspension of a few lower-level policemen was not enough and senior officers should also be held accountable.
Dikshit said the city Government would urge the Delhi High Court Chief Justice for immediate setting up of fast-track courts to try rape cases and to get justice in a time-bound manner.
“The law should be such that it should be able to invoke life imprisonment or death in serious cases like the one that happened to the 23-year-old girl in Delhi,” she said.
She parried a question on whether Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar should be removed, saying, “I am not somebody who is to take the decision.”
“Removing one or two constables will not instill confidence. The highest officer who is in charge of the area where the incident had taken place should be held responsible to restore public confidence,” she told reporters after the meeting with Shinde.
On the need to ensure security to common man, the Chief Minister said VIP security should not be made an “excuse” to make an ordinary citizen feel “insecure”.
“Patrolling should be increased. Visibility of police should be enhanced and deployment should be rationalised. If there is need to cut deployment for VIP security to ensure security of common people, then it should be done,” she said.
The Chief Minister said Shinde would speak to Delhi High Court Chief Justice D Murugesan on the issue of setting up of fast track courts. “We may, if required, go and see him so that it (courts) goes fast track,” she said.
Dikshit also urged the Home Minister to ensure that policemen are deployed on public transport for ensuring safety of women.
The Chief Minister rushed to Shinde’s residence immediately after the emergency Cabinet meeting, which expressed serious concerns about the prevailing law and order situation in the capital following violent protests at India Gate.
Sources said the Cabinet felt that concrete measures must be taken to instill confidence among women in the city.
At her meeting with Shinde, Dikshit asked him to ensure that the Police Commissioner, the Lt Governor and the Home Ministry to immediately put a mechanism to prevent occurrence of such incidents in the capital.
Since the confidence in law and order machinery is shaken, she said, steps must be taken for restoration of the same.
“There is a need to set up a Police Complaint Authority to look into complaints against personnel. There is also a need for fast track courts for time-bound disposal of cases,” she told Shinde.
Dikshit also demanded that strict and immediate action should be taken against officers and personnel responsible for dereliction of duty in connection with the Sunday gangrape.
Police should be made accountable and responsive, she said.
The Chief Minister urged Shinde to direct Lt Governor Tejendra Khanna, officials of Home Ministry and Police to come out with a specific mechanism so that people feel secure and safe no matter at any point of time.
“The Lt Governor, Ministry of Home Affairs and Police must come out with certain mechanism so that common people feel secure. People should feel secure and safe no matter at what time they want to go out,” she said.
Appealing people to maintain calm and peace, she said a conducive atmosphere was must to implement the measures being contemplated by police and the Centre to improve security in the city.
“The entire Cabinet appeals to people to ensure peace and calm so that all the steps being contemplated by Government of India and police can come into effect,” Dikshit said.
The Chief Minister said the Home Minister told her that a judicial commission has been set up to examine demand for enhancing punishment for rape convicts and that the Centre was taking a number of measures to enhance security in the city.
Dikshit said she has also pleaded with the Home Minister to ensure that the trial of the accused involved in the brutal rape of the 23-year-old starts “at the earliest and if possible by tomorrow”.
Asked about the presence of Ramdev and Arvind Kejriwal in the protest, Dikshit said the movement will lose dignity if it turns political.
Earlier, the Delhi Cabinet expressed “deep anguish and concern” over the current law and order situation in the city and since the confidence in law and order machinery is shaken, steps must be taken for restoration of the same.
The Cabinet also demanded setting up of an “effective” Police Complaint Authority to look in to all complaints against police officials. (PTI)

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