A protest by former slum-dwellers, backed by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), seeking waiver of the Rs. 1,803-a-month installment on their rehabilitation flats, turned violent outside the deputy commissioner (DC) office in Sector 1, Panchkula, on Tuesday, resulting in injuries to at least six people, including a cop.
There are over 2,000 Ashiana flats in Panchkula given to slum-dwellers as part of a rehabilitation scheme, and they are to pay monthly installments for 20 years to get ownership.
The protestors sat outside the DC office around 11 am and, around 1pm, they tried to enter the office. At this, police personnel pushed them and the scuffle resulted in minor injuries to some people. Some of the irate protestors threw shoes at the cops; some women hurled abuses, while some of the agitators hurled stones later.
A man carrying the national flag hurt his forehead with flagpole in the commotion; he was carrying the flag upside down, but corrected it when someone pointed it out. A woman fell to the ground, purportedly unconscious, before TV channels' cameras, while others offered water to her. Then a few old men also lied next to her and showed their injuries to photographers and camerapersons.
Daya Ram, resident of Sector 26, who was hit on the nose, forehead and shin, said, "I was beaten up by the police." Mehrunisa, a resident of Abheypur village, had injuries on her elbow, while Maharath, resident of Sector 28, while showing injuries on his feet, too blamed the cops.
Urmila, another protester, said, "How can we manage a monthly installment of Rs. 1,803 when we earn just Rs. 3,000?" Seema Bharadwaj, an AAP activist, told the media, "We wanted the DC to come and talk to us. Earlier, tool, there have been protests regarding our demands."
The climax of the protest came when Vijay Brar, who was leading the protest, and his associate Sunil Kumar, poured kerosene on themselves and threatened to set fire. But the police took them in custody. After that, the police charged at the protesters, when one of the women threw a stone that hit constable Aman Kumar in the head. The cop bled profusely.
The police formally arrested Brar and Sunil Kumar for attempt to suicide, while 10 others were arrested for rioting and using criminal force to deter public servant from performing their duty.
Meanwhile, the AAP later released a press statement condemning the violent protest and added that whoever was involved must face action.
As for the demand, no assurance was given.