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AAP supporters clash; Kejriwal stir could hit R-Day celebrations

Tension ran high at Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal's sit-in protest site on Tuesday as the police resorted to a baton charge after supporters of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) broke barricades to reach the spot where the CM was sitting on a makeshift podium. Fifteen people including two policemen were injured in the clash. Poll:Is governance taking a backseat to gimmickry?

india Updated: Jan 22, 2014 00:56 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
arvind kejriwal,home ministry,dharna

Tension ran high at Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal's sit-in protest site on Tuesday as the police resorted to a baton charge after supporters of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) broke barricades to reach the spot where the CM was sitting on a makeshift podium. Fifteen people including two policemen were injured in the clash.

A group of jostling people wearing AAP caps jumped barricades, set up around at all the arterial roads leading to the venue where Kejriwal sat on a dharna for the second day, and clashes broke out when police started pushing them back.

"We had to push back people who broke the barricades. If any person has been injured, they can use the ambulances present here," a Delhi Police official said.

There was heavy deployment of police at the high-security zone in central Delhi that houses Parliament, Prime Minister's Office, various ministries and Rashtrapati Bhavan.

The police cordoned off the protest site from all sides amid intermittent skirmishes with the AAP supporters. Journalists also complained of being manhandled.

There was a thin crowd with Kejriwal, but the number of supporters on the other side of barricades grew at a steady pace.

Around 3.30pm, some 200-300 AAP volunteers broke the barricades near the Constitution Club to reach to the place where chief minister was holding a dharna.

In response, the police baton-charged the AAP volunteers. Two policemen were injured in stone-pelting.

Senior AAP leader Sanjay Singh lashed out at the Delhi Police accusing them of brutally beating up a number of party workers.

“Police brutality is evident. Journalists were beaten up. A lot of our volunteers were beaten up.”

The AAP leaders, who tried to meet the supporters across the barricades, were not allowed by the police to proceed. Party leader Manish Sisodia urged supporters to keep calm and not indulge in petty fights, and help the party fight the bigger battle.

Read: Is Arvind Kejriwal banking on Congress pulling out?

HT Analysis: Is Arvind Kejriwal an agent of change or a successful demagogue?

Earlier on Tuesday, Kejriwal refused to budge from the protest site near Rail Bhavan, threatening to disrupt Republic Day celebrations on Rajpath if his demand for the suspension of four "errant" police officials was not met.

As the AAP-led protest intensified on the second day, political opponents blamed the rookie party for "anarchic situation" in the Capital.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear a PIL against Kejriwal and his cabinet colleague Somnath Bharti for resorting to "agitation and street fight".

On Friday, a bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam will hear the PIL, which said AAP ministers are holding constitutional posts and they cannot agitate on streets against other constitutional authorities.

Kejriwal has called a 10-day protest, demanding action against police officials who refused to raid an alleged drug and prostitution ring in south Delhi on the orders of law minister Bharti. He also wants the Delhi Police, controlled by the Union home ministry, be brought under the jurisdiction of the state government.

Read: Rains force Arvind Kejriwal to take shelter in car

Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on a protest near India Gate, in New Delhi.(Virendra Singh Gosain/HT photo)

"Does the home minister (Sushilkumar Shinde) want to fight with the Delhi government? This is a fight for freedom. If a chief minister cannot suspend a corrupt SHO (Station House Officer), what kind of Republic Day will you celebrate?" Kejriwal, who indicated the protest was 'indefinite' and may not end in 10 days, said.

"The people protesting here are not Pakistanis or Americans. They are our own people. Shinde is saying we will celebrate Republic Day, but for whom? The VIPs will watch the floats and parades. That is not Republic Day," he added.

The government-led protests in the heart of Delhi - near Republic Day celebrations venue on Rajpath - also prompted the police to ask the CM to shift to Jantar Mantar.

"Who is Shinde to tell me where to protest and where not to? I am the chief minister of Delhi and I have the right to decide?" Kejriwal said.

But the Centre showed no signs of relenting. "My stand remains the same. Action will be taken (against the police officials) only after receiving the report... Let them (AAP) do whatever they want," Shinde said.

Union ministers GK Vasan and Manish Tewari, too, criticised the Kejriwal-led for the campaign. While Vasan termed it a "publicity stunt", Tewari said people would judge the AAP government based on its performance, and not the number of protests.

Read: Delhi Cong chief Arvinder Singh Lovely calls Kejriwal a liar

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also took a dig at Kejriwal. "Today Kejriwal has said Republic Day celebration is nothing but a procession of floats. This is an insult to the nation, to the people and to the defence forces," BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said.

"This is a joint operation of AAP and Congress which has led to an anarchic situation in Delhi," he added.

But Kejriwal's reply to his critics was: "Politics is about activism. We can play a twin role of running the government and doing activism. This is our style of running the government."

With Kejriwal and his supporters continuing with their protest, four Delhi Metro stations - Patel Chowk, Central Secretariat, Udyog Bhawan and Race Course - remained closed for the second successive day, spelling trouble for thousands of commuters.

"The Metro services will remain shut until further orders, a Delhi Metro Rail Corporation official said.

Kejriwal blamed Shinde for the inconvenience caused to people. "Shinde has closed the metro stations. I had told Metro officials to run trains. They said they cannot do it as the Delhi Police have closed them."

Earlier, the chief minister, along with his six cabinet colleagues and scores of supporters, spent the night outside the Rail Bhavan, braving the cold winter.

Kejriwal slept on the road under the open sky while some of his supporters spent the night singing and raising slogans around a bonfire.

"They have turned this small area into a jail. There are not toilets here. I was using a toilet at Rail Bhavan yesterday (Monday). Today, they have even closed that. We had arranged a public toilet somehow yesterday which they did not allow to bring here. They are even not allowing food to be brought here," the chief minister said.

On Monday, baton-wielding police prevented Kejriwal and AAP leaders from taking their stir against alleged police inaction to the doorstep of the Union home ministry.

Bharti, the Delhi law minister, had pulled the trigger last week when he set out to "uncover a sex and drug racket" at a building in south Delhi's Khirki Extension.

But when Bharti, a lawyer, asked the policemen accompanying him to raid the building, they refused in the absence of a search warrant or proper police back-up.

Rakhi Birla, the women and child development minister, had her own run-in with the police in Sagarpur when they allegedly refused to apprehend the in-laws of a woman who has been hospitalised with 45% burns. The alleged police inaction led to an AAP protest in the heart of the Capital.

With PTI, IANS and ANI inputs

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First Published: Jan 21, 2014 10:00 IST