The national capital was turned into a fortress on Sunday, with the police departments of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana working along with paramilitary forces to prevent protesters in the city and neighbouring States from marching towards the new Parliament building to demand the arrest of Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.
Around 800 hundred protesters, including the wrestlers Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia, seeking the WFI chief’s arrest for the past 35 days at Jantar Mantar, were detained at multiple locations in the city and were released later in the evening. The police and paramilitary personnel also cleared the protest site at Jantar Mantar. Over 9,000 police and paramilitary personnel were deployed in the national capital throughout the day.
Hundreds of khap leaders and farmer activists, including Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) spokesperson Rakesh Tikait, coming from Uttar Pradesh, were stopped at the Delhi-Ghazipur border and prevented from entering the city. Mr. Tikait called for a protest at the border soon after hearing about the detention of the protesting wrestlers. He called it off eight hours later after the grapplers were released. Huge traffic jams were reported in the area meanwhile.
Students of Jawaharlal Nehru University said they were detained soon after they stepped out of the university to join the protests.
Several khap and farm union leaders, including Bhartiya Kisan Union (Charuni) president Gurnam Singh Charuni, were detained in Haryana before they could leave for Delhi to express their support for the protesting wrestlers. Several Haryana activists headed to the Capital in trains alleged harassment by the police.
Special Commissioner of Police (Law and Order, Zone 1) Dependra Pathak said nearly 4,500 personnel of the Delhi police and as many from paramilitary forces were deployed in various parts of the city to maintain law and order. “Moreover, the entire police force was asked to remain alert and be ready to deal with any kind of situation,” he said.
‘Couldn’t take chances’
“We could not let them [protesters] come close to the new Parliament and disrupt the law and order in the area,” he said, adding that nearly 800 protestors were detained across the city.
Condemning the alleged high-handedness by the police in dealing with the protesting wrestlers, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal took to Twitter, saying, “Such treatment to the sportspersons who brought laurels to the country is grossly wrong and condemnable.”
Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) chairperson Swati Maliwal wrote to Delhi Police Commissioner Sanjay Arora demanding Mr. Singh’s arrest. Meanwhile, Mayor Shelly Oberoi denied permission to the Delhi police to create a temporary jail at a school in Bawana near the Delhi-Haryana border. “Permission denied. It’s high time that governance becomes sensitive to the future of this country, our children,” the Mayor tweeted.