A wall of security around Red Fort as dust of violence settles
The Red Fort was at the heart of the violence as farmers deviated from their tractor rally routes, barged into the monument, damaged property, and hoisted flags on the ramparts
Additional troops were called in and more barricades were put up near the Red Fort, a Unesco World Heritage site, on Wednesday, a day after protesters barged into the monument, damaging property and hoisting the Nishan Sahib flag on the ramparts of the fort, officials aware of the development said.
Union tourism and culture minister Prahlad Singh Patel visited the fort on Wednesday along with the director general of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) — the agency responsible for the upkeep of the monument. “Visited the Red Fort this morning with the culture secretary and director general, ASI, and directed them to submit a report and get an FIR registered under the relevant sections,” Patel tweeted in Hindi.
In an order issued on Wednesday, the ASI said the fort will stay closed till January 31 for the public and general visitors.
On Tuesday, several groups among thousands of farmers who were camping at Delhi’s border demanding withdrawal of three new farm laws, arrived at the Red Fort without warning and in violation of the terms of their tractor rally, and clashed with police.
Officials said the protesters inflicted extensive damage at the monument -- at least three finials placed atop the rampart domes went missing, the ticket counter was vandalised and window panes were shattered, toilets were broken, air conditioners were damaged, entrance to the fort was defaced, the stone boards were uprooted, staff rooms were vandalised, railings and stairs were defaced, a police van was smashed and toppled and CCTV cameras installed within the fort were crushed.
The farmers stayed at the monument till late evening before returning to the respective protest sites on the city’s peripheries.
Early Wednesday morning, the police blocked the entries to the fort with police buses and fresh barricades and additional paramilitary forces which included personnel from the Central Reserve Police (CRP), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and Delhi Police were deployed at the monument. Police have also stationed water cannons within the fort’s premises, officials aware of the development said.
Senior Delhi Police officers also inspected the fort to review the security status. A senior ASI official, who asked not to be named because he is not authorised to speak to the media, said since the ticket counters and other areas have been completely damaged, the reopening of the monument will take time. The Red Fort is secured by the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF).
Security personnel who were present inside the fort at the time of clashes said at least 1,000-1,500 protesters were present inside the fort on Tuesday. The first group of farmers arrived at the main of the Red Fort around 1pm and broke it open using axes and other metal tools that they were carrying, the officers said, requesting anonymity.
They said, as the doors were forced open, hundreds others barged in, outnumbering the security personnel present inside the monument, and climbed atop the fort hoisting their flags on the ramparts.
A senior CISF officer, who wished not to be named, said the first group of men entered the fort between 1pm and 1.15 pm. “Usually there are 40-50 armed CISF personnel are deployed inside the fort. On Tuesday, because the security had been intensified due to the Republic Day, 100 personnel were present there. Our men were outnumbered by the protesters,” the officer said.
At least three CISF personnel were injured trying to stop the mob from trespassing the highly secured monument.
CISF’s deputy inspector general (operations) Anil Pandey said 40 additional personnel were deployed at the fort on Wednesday. “Our 31 companies are attached with the Delhi Police for law and order support duties for more than past one month due to the ongoing farmers’ agitation and because of the Republic Day. These companies were deployed at various locations in national capital by the Delhi Police including the Red Fort,” Pandey said.
The DIG said a unit of 280 CISF personnel remains deployed at Red Fort throughout the year. “At a given time, 40-50 men are deployed inside the fort at various duty posts in one shift,” he said.
(With inputs fro Deeksha Bhardwaj)