The high drama at central Delhi’s Ramlila ground on Saturday night, when police swooped down on yoga guru Baba Ramdev’s arena of anti-corruption protest, was in accordance with scripts peculiar to such ‘movements’, said sources in the Delhi police.
Though such a passive view of teargas shells being fired, batons hurled and chaos seems incredible, the sources said a majority of the ‘mass public rallies’ — as many as 12 of which are organised in the capital daily whenever Parliament is in session — were ‘stage-managed’.
“The usual organisers of such rallies always find themselves in a catch-22 situation: they want all the media attention they can possibly get without getting injured in minor skirmishes that usually occur between them and the police. So, they request us to make minor concessions for them,” said a senior police officer who did not want to be named.
The ‘minor concessions’ offered to ‘habitual demonstrators’, mostly from political parties and student groups, range from exaggerating the total number of persons participating in the said ‘people’s protest’ to ‘soft’ baton-charges and less accurately aimed shots from water cannons.
Senior officers believe in a country where the only accepted form of expressing dissent depends not on the legitimacy of demands, but the sheer number of people successfully mobilised, this ‘middle-path’ approach serves a dual purpose.
“When this approach is followed, the police are satisfied because the law and order situation, though seemingly on the edge, is actually under control and so are the organisers because they are able to manage a successful show of strength, which, in the absence of a memorandum of legitimate demands, is the primary objective,” the officer quoted above said.
According to the Delhi police data, the capital has already seen at least 800 demonstrations or rallies, including social activist Anna Hazare’s protest at Jantar Mantar, this year.
Meanwhile, police have arrested 10 people for rioting at the Ramlila ground after the police crackdown on Ramdev’s fast. Vivek Kishore, deputy commissioner of police (central), said two of the arrested were from Delhi and the rest from Haryana.
A case has been registered against the rioters at the Kamla Market police station.