Capital stirred but not shaken: protests confined to outskirts
Agitating Gujjars resort to violence during a day-long call for shutdown to demand ST status in Rajasthan, report Ravi Bajpai & Abhishek Bhalla.delhi Updated: Jun 05, 2007 04:55 IST
Agitating Gujjars cut off the Capital from neighbouring Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, torched vehicles and pelted stones on security forces during the Delhi bandh on Monday, injuring several police officers and leaving thousands of commuters stranded.
Protesters are demanding Schedule Tribe status for Rajasthan Gujjars and compensation for those killed in police firing in the state. At Aya Nagar village on Mehrauli-Gurgaon Road, the air was filled with smoke of burnt tyres, metal and tear gas since 9 am. Angry Gujjars chased out about 150 police and Border Security Force officers in New Delhi when they tried to enter the village in the morning.
"Protesters started pelting stones and we had to retreat. We retaliated by shelling tear gas," said DCP (south) Anil Shukla.
Police fired in the air to disperse the mob and reserve police was also rushed to the spot. Fifteen officers were hurt, with two sustaining serious injuries.
Action started when Gujjars torched two Delhi Transport Corporation buses, after police used lathicharge to disperse the protesters who had blocked MG Road, said eyewitness JP Lohia.
One of the bus drivers, Zile Singh, said, "Some people pulled me out of the bus and set the bus on fire. I hid in the nearby hills to escape their fury."
Both buses were not carrying passengers. Protesters pelted stones from nearby hillocks and police retaliated by firing rounds of tear gas.
At Badarpur too, security forces used tear gas, water cannons and lathicharge to control protesters who tried to block the Delhi-Faridabad road. Similar scenes were witnessed in Ghittorni on MG Road.
Protestors in northeast Delhi’s Gujjar-dominated Khajoori Khas area stopped traffic, smashed buses and set them afire at 10 am in the presence of Indo Tibetan Border Police, Rapid Action Force and Delhi police.
Protesters forced shopkeepers into downing shutters. "Police used lathicharge and tear gas to disperse protesters who pelted stones at them," said general store merchant and eyewitness Umesh Singh.
The National Highway 24, connecting Delhi with Ghaziabad, was blocked when protesters stopped vehicular movement. Demonstrators staged a chakka jam on Ghazipur crossing and shouted slogans against Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje.
Buses and a truck were also set ablaze in Mehrauli. Traffic was stopped at Dallupura near the Noida-Delhi border and Sarita Vihar where protestors burnt tyres. Demonstrators blocked vehicular movement in Mayur Vihar, Wazirabad, Usmanpur, Jasola, Anand Vihar, Kalindi Kunj and on Nizamuddin bridge.
Delhi Police commissioner KK Paul said normalcy was largely restored by late afternoon and they were making necessary security arrangements for the future.