Delhi Police protest over clash at Tis Hazari court

New Delhi: Police personnel gather outside the police headquarters ITO to protest the assault on policemen following clashes with lawyers at Tis Hazari court last week, in New Delhi, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. (DH Photo)

'How's the Josh...Low Sir' – With slogans like these, Delhi Police personnel on Tuesday went on an unprecedented protest, which turned into a virtual gherao of the police headquarters here, for about 11 hours blocking traffic on a busy stretch against the attacks by lawyers and top leadership's reluctance to come out in their support.

For 11 hours before the personnel called off their protest at around 8 PM, repeated attempts by top police officials throughout the day did not yield result as protesters remained adamant on their demands.

Protesters finally decided to return to work after senior police officials assured the protesters about filing of FIRs against erring lawyers, better treatment, compensation of Rs 25,000 for injured policemen as well as filing a review petition against Delhi High Court's order on transfer and suspension of officers and personnel and bar on arrest of advocates involved in violence.

While a section depicted the protest, dubbed the first in Delhi Police's history by many senior officials, as “revolt” and the manifestation of lower ranks' no-confidence in Commissioner Amulya Patnaik, questions were also raised on Home Minister Amit Shah's silence in the episode with the Opposition alleging that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) was remaining a "mute spectator".

Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju, also a former Minister of State for Home Affairs, was the lone minister to tweet in support of policemen but he deleted it later. However, IAS Association, IPS Associations and other Police Associations in states came out in the support of protesters.

Police personnel in junior ranks had started gathering outside the old police headquarters near ITO at around 9 AM, whose number surged to thousands by noon, to express their anger and anguish over the attack in Tiz Hazari court complex on Saturday and the one in Saket courts on Monday as well as police leadership's "inadequate" response to protect their interests.

The Centre moved the Delhi High Court with a plea that its order for no coercive action against lawyers following the Tiz Hazari incident should not be applicable on the subsequent incidents like the one witnessed in Saket court.

The resentment in ranks were so high that it even prompted them to take potshots at the Centre by improvising a BJP's campaign line inspired by a film dialogue -- 'How's the Josh' in film 'Uri' -- to register their protest. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and other BJP leaders had used the dialogue as a theme to highlight BJP's achievements.

With placards printed as well as hand-written slogans like 'We are Human in Police Uniforms', 'We are not Punching Bags', 'Protectors Need Protection' and 'We Want Justice', the personnel gathered following messages sent to them which insisted that it was intended to make more effect but without violence or misbehaviour. "Anything wrong will derail the movement. We need to show we are disciplined members of the force and not like advocates," it read.

Patnaik, whom the personnel accuse of not taking a pro-active stand and left them to fend for themselves, addressed the protesters at around 1 PM appealing them to go back to their duty points as he was hopeful that there will be a fair closure to the judicial enquiry. "The last few days have been testing for us. A judicial inquiry has been set-up on the issue. Let the law take its course," he said but his appeal did not have an immediate impact as personnel continued to stay at the protest site.

The protesters raised their decibel levels even higher as the Commissioner continued his speech with even some booing him. Some police personnel also entered the headquarters by scaling the iron gates while families of protesters held demonstration near the iconic India Gate.

Later in the day, Special Commissioner Satish Golcha and Joint Commissioners Rajesh Khurana and Devesh Srivastava too addressed the protesters but the latter refused to budge and return to their duty points.

A number of IPS officers tweeted in support of police personnel while interestingly, Rijiju deleted a tweet in which he said, “being a cop is a thankless job. But they don't do it for thanks. Police officers put their lives on the line every day. They are damned if they do, and damned if they don't. What gets lost in all the anti-police rhetoric is the family left at home while a policeman serves.”

Rijiju was the only minister to make a comment on the issue. After deleting the tweet, he said, “let's not take law into our hands” while tagging a tweet about the video of the attack on a policeman by a lawyer.

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