At Delhi’s Connaught Place, a 300-ft fire tower is new venue to voice dissent
A 300-foot tall communication tower at the fire station of Connaught Place has become the new hub for desperate protesters wanting to make their voices heard, and a bane for rescuers.
Fire service helpline shows that in the last five months this year (March to July), the Delhi Fire Services (DFS) has rescued at least eight persons who climbed the tower with placards and banners, threatening to commit suicide if their demands were not heard.
Last month, two cases of protesters climbing the communication tower were reported, in which fire tenders had to be kept on standby as rescuers got the men down using a mechanical ladder.
On July 27, a man identified as Umesh Reddy climbed the tower — as high as 120 feet, or roughly the height of the adjacent Metro Bhawan—with two placards demanding special status for Andhra Pradesh.
“Since the tower is on the fire station premises, some of our colleagues spotted the man climbing the railings to get to the top of the tower. We immediately alerted the police and put two tenders on standby,” said a senior fire official, who was a part of the rescue operation.
Earlier in July, another man — identified as Mahipal Singh Gurjar — was spotted by a fireman demanding reservations for Gujjars in Rajasthan. He, too, was stopped before he could reach the top of the tower.
Delhi Police said that when these protesters were taken into custody and questioned, both revealed that they wanted to “try something new to get their demands heard”.
Fire officials said not all people who climb the tower, located in the heart of Connaught Place at Barakhamba Road, do so to make political demands.
In March this year, a 40-year-old man had climbed the tower after he reportedly had a fight with his wife.
Rescuers said that the man kept shouting from on top that his wife be arrested and put behind bars for allegedly “torturing him”.
Fire chief GC Mishra said that the department has been keeping an eye out for such incidents but it is difficult to persuade such protesters to come down as one wrong move can risk their lives.
“When there are other protest sites in the city why risk your life to get your demands heard here? The rescue gets tricky in such cases because in many cases these people refuse of budge or panic when our officials reach them. They have to be convinced and safely brought down,” Mishra said.