Police, protesters exchange blows

After incidents of minor scuffles between Delhi Police and the Aam Aadmi Party supporters since morning on Tuesday, batons were used on a group of protesters after they broke barricades to join Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal late in afternoon. AAP claimed that 15-20 protesters were injured, with some requiring hospitalisation. A few policemen also suffered injuries in the scuffle.

Earlier in the day, police alleged that AAP members were provoking them through slogans, abuses and by hurling various objects on them. S B S Tyagi, Deputy Commissioner of Police (New Delhi) said that they plucked slabs from the footpath and threw them on policemen, leaving two injured in the face.

However, despite the alleged provocation and numerous attempts at breaking the barricades, no major clash took place between the two groups till late afternoon.

At 3.35 pm, a large group protesting near Krishi Bhawan broke barricades at one end to move towards the spot where Kejriwal was holding his protest. Police remained just spectators till the time they had broken through the entire chain of barricades.
While the Sashastra Seema Bal force dealt lathi blows to those jumping the barricades, the unarmed Delhi Police used their bare hands to deal with the unruly crowd. Some activists were surrounded by policemen and thrashed, and some others were dragged on the roads.

About 15-20 protesters and “at least four policemen” suffered injuries in this encounter. Two journalists, including a photographer, also received blows from policemen. Some journalists also alleged that they were roughed up by AAP workers.
The incident led to further protests immediately. But the two sides were more restrained this time. While protesters formed a chain and moved ahead, shouting slogans against police, the policemen surrounded them from all sides.

The attention soon shifted to Kejriwal who, surrounded by his supporters and the media, walked to the site of the clash. He then returned to his car, after which the situation came under control.

Despite the protesters shouting slogans in favour of Kejriwal and holding party banners for hours, Rakhi Birla, a minister in Kejriwal’s cabinet, claimed that the people who broke the barricades were not AAP volunteers and termed it as a “police drama”.

The police said that the protesters even threw barricades at them before charging ahead. “You all have seen for yourself. They have been violating many laws, throwing stones and other objects at policemen. They are also using loudspeakers despite not being granted permission by us. We are working as per the law and being very patient with them,” said Mukesh Kumar Meena, Joint Commissioner of Police (New Delhi Range).

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