Tear gas, water cannons greet protesters

Coalgate agitation stops short of Prime Ministers official residence

Tear gas, water cannons greet protesters

The Delhi Police lathicharged and used tear gas and water cannons to stop anti-corruption activists led by Arvind Kejriwal and his team members from protesting a few hundred metres away from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s houses.

The nine-hour-long high voltage drama unfolded in the high security zones of Delhi in morning when a group of activists led by Kejriwal surfaced near the Prime Minister’s house as part of their gherao move against Congress and BJP on the coal block allocation controversy, alleging both parties were hand-in-glove in corruption.

India Against Corruption (IAC) supporters assembled at Jantar Mantar and started marching at 1:20 pm after Kejriwal called from the dais to protest outside the houses of Manmohan Singh, Gandhi and BJP president Nitin Gadkari.

Breaking down three barricades and making their way through a human chain of policemen outside Parliament Street police station, Kejriwal’s supporters along with Prashant Bhushan, Manish Sisodia, Gopal Rai, Kumar Vishas and Sanjay Singh marched towards their destinations, shouting “Halla Bol”.

Cops change strategy

Police in thousands seeing this started changing their strategies and rushed behind the supporters. As they went to Rafi Marg Circle through Parliament Street and Red Cross Road, police again tried to stop them outside Rail Bhawan, and immediately called in another battalion of personnel.

But they could stop them and the supporters kept on marching. Police again failed to stop them at Udyog Bhawan.

From Udyog Bhawan, protesters in groups of a few hundred marched in different routes towards the PM and Gandhi’s houses. Kejriwal, along with some 500 supporters, marched towards the PM’s house, while Prashant Bhushan, Manish Sisodia and Kumar Vishas marched towards the Congress chief’s house at Janpath.

A small group led by Gopal Rai and Sanjay Singh moved towards Nitin Gadkari’s house.
Police again tried to stop Kejriwal and his supporters at Sunehri Bagh Road, but cops could do anything. The crowd moved towards Akbar Road. They passed the first barricade on Akbar Road, and when they were near the second barricade, police started their baton charge. Despite that hundreds managed to reach the second barricade.

Police then used water cannon and tear gas. They continuously lathicharged the protesters, including women. Seeing this, Kejriwal and his supporters sat on the road in front of the barricade. Within a few minutes a few policemen came down on them with lathis. They dragged them some 500 metres, beating them continuously and firing tear gas shells. Police fired at least 10 tear gas shells.

The protesters were eventually pushed inside a Delhi Transport Corporation bus, where Kejriwal said, “It was a peaceful march, but by assaulting us and using tear gas, the government again used police to suppress us.”

High drama

When the bus was trying to move, people sat in front of the bus and did not allowed it to move. Police again fired three tear gas shells. Supporters in the bus along with Kejriwal came outside when one of them fainted.

The ‘unprepared’ police did not send even a single ambulance to take the unconscious person and those who were injured. After half-an-hour, a police van arrived and rushed the unconscious person to the nearest hospital.

The second group led by Prashant Bhushan, Manish Sisodia and Kumar Vishas marched towards Gandhi’s house and reached Janpath intersection at 1:30 pm. Police had put up a barricade outside Ram Vilas Paswan’s house too.

The cops stopped their march and slightly used force, following which Manish Sisodia, Prashant Bhushan and Kaumar Vishwas sat on the road.

Police asked them to leave but when they refused, the cops had to lathicharge them and use water cannons and tear gas. They were also forced inside a bus and taken to Parliament Street police station.

The third group was detained near Gopal Rai and Sanjay Singh without the use of tear gas.

At 3:30 pm, Kejriwal called off the protest, saying, “We have exposed the real face of the government and we have shown that both Congress and BJP have looted this country.”
Some activists also protested near the Prime Minister’s Office in South Block and also the BJP office on Ashoka Road, before being removed by police.

Hundreds of people gathered on Parliament Street and Mandir Marg police station, where they were officially arrested under section 65 of The Delhi Police Act, 1978 and released within minutes.

By 4:30 pm, supporters and the former Team Anna members went home, shouting “Vande Mataram”.

Police justified the use of force, saying the protest in VVIP areas was unauthorised. “They talked of peaceful protest, but it turned violent and they vandalised barricades and some of them also assaulted cops. We had no option but to resort to lathicharge and use water cannons and tear gas,” said a senior police officer.

Police have arrested five persons for rioting and violating prohibitionary orders.

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