Refuting allegations that it baton charged thousands of Baba Ramdev's followers to evict them from the Ramlila Ground in a post-midnight raid, the Delhi Police on Sunday said that the yoga guru's supporters were responsible for the entire chaos.
"We used tear gas after Ramdev's supporters pelted stones and when they attacked us with iron rods, fire extinguishers and what appeared to be baseball bats. This was due to Baba Ramdev," special commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Dharmendra Kumar said.
"Media alleged that there was lathi-charge, which is not true. There was no lathi-charge. The whole media was there, not even one have shown the visuals of lathi-charge. And the allegation that women were manhandled is also false. We had a huge number of women police personnel, we asked them to handle them," he said.
The officer said that the stampede was triggered by Ramdev when he jumped off the stage to evade the police personnel.
Police also claimed that they had specific intelligence report about a threat to the yoga guru.
"This (Ramlila Ground) was the appropriate place to target him," he said.
Earlier, Delhi Police said that they cracked down on Ramdev after midnight Saturday in order to avoid law and order problems.
"You know better how the crowd is during day time, that is why the action was taken at night," Delhi Police spokesperson Rajan Bhagat told IANS.
In the operation which he said started around 1 am, police forcibly took away the yoga guru from the Ramlila Ground where he was on a fast against corruption and black money. His supporters were dispersed using tear gas.
"A case of rioting, damage to public property and obstruction of public servants in discharge of public duties has been registered," Bhagat added.
Delhi Police Commissioner BK Gupta said tear gas was used only after the yoga guru's supporters attacked the police with stones.
"We never used force first. We used tear gas only when they attacked policemen with stones. The Baba took protection among women volunteers and left the spot," Gupta told NDTV.
He quoted Ramdev as initially saying that 5,000 people would reach the protest venue but said that over 50,000 came. "We cannot allow this kind of gathering."
He said Ramdev had been told he would be detained.
"We informed Baba Ramdev he will be detained as there was a security threat because more people had thronged the place than its capacity," he said.
Bhagat added: "When police personnel moved in to detain Baba Ramdev, his followers came in the way and started pelting stones, flower pots and whatever they could lay their hands on. Pushing and pulling between the policemen and the supporters followed, resulting in injuries to supporters as well as policemen."
He said that Ramdev's 39 supporters, including four women, and 23 policemen were injured and they were discharged after first aid.
Meanwhile, hospital authorities said that around 100 people were injured.
"Around 100 people are injured, out of which 71 are critical. Many have suffered wounds on their limbs," a medical official at the Lok Nayak Hospital told IANS. The hospital is adjacent to the Ramlila ground.
"The police exercised great restraint in dealing with supporters and situation," Bhagat said.
"In order to contain the situation from deteriorating, police lobbed eight tear gas shells, which forced the supporters to vacate the venue although after much resistance. Subsequently, police detained Baba Ramdev. He was later allowed to leave after he requested to return to his ashram in Haridwar (in Uttarakhand)," a Delhi Police statement said.
According to the police, they informed the yoga guru that they had granted permission to the Bharat Swabhiman Trust to hold a yoga training camp by Baba Ramdev.
"We had given permission to hold a yoga camp but it was withdrawn when all efforts failed to convince Baba Ramdev and organisers to restrict the activities to what was originally permitted, in view of the heightened security scenario of the capital city and public safety," Bhagat said.
The police statement said that instead of a yoga camp, leaders from political and religious organisations, including Baba Ramdev, chose to incite his followers through provocative speeches from the dais.