Delhi protests take violent turn, 150 injured, policeman critical

At least 150 people, including 78 policemen, were injured and a constable suffered cardiac arrest and was battling for life in hospital as street protests over the gangrape of a 23-year-old woman on board a bus a week ago turned violent in the heart of New Delhi on Sunday.

All roads leading to Rajpath and India Gate were sealed after police resorted to lathicharge and use of teargas to clear protesters from the area. Delhi Metro announced that nine stations in central Delhi will remain closed on Monday.

Late on Sunday night, the gangrape victim's emotional father issued an appeal to the protesters to stop vandalism and help police in bringing the culprits to justice at the earliest. He also appealed to the people to pray for his daughter, who is fighting for her life at a city hospital.

"My daughter is stable now. She is conscious. I appeal to all to refrain from vandalism and help the police so that the process of capturing and sentencing the culprits is successful," he told a TV news channel.

He also said the fighting capacity in his daughter still remains the same. "The capability to live and fight on is still the same in my daughter. Please pray to god that my daughter recovers. Vandalism will do no good. I appeal to you don't cause any damage so that both you and I can carry on in peace. No words can describe how brave my girl is...," he said.

Among the injured were journalists and police officers including Joint Commissioner Taj Hassan, Addl Commissioner K C Dwivedi, Deputy Commissioner Bhola Shankar and Addl DCP Sanjay Tyagi. Police had to rescue Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit's son and East Delhi MP Sandeep Diskhit after he was surrounded by protesters.

Women in the crowd complained they had been molested by "goons" who also attacked the police with stones and lathis. Constable Subhash Tomar was on ventilator support at the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital. While police said he had been beaten by protesters on Tilak Marg, doctors said he had suffered cardiac arrest and there were no visible injury marks.

Special Commissioner (Law and Order) Dharmendra Kumar blamed "hooligans" for the violence. He said unruly elements had "hijacked" peaceful demonstrations. In its report to the Home Ministry, police said some "vested interests" had joined the protesters and were instigating violence. Cases have been registered against "unknown persons".

At Jantar Mantar, yoga guru Ramdev and former Army chief V K Singh addressed protesters who clashed with police after they were stopped from marching towards India Gate. Aam Aadmi Party's Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia sat on a dharna near Hyderabad House. BJP youths also took part in the protests.

Unlike Saturday when most protesters were college students, Sunday's crowd comprised people who had come from outside the city, including neighbouring states. While Ramdev was directed to Jantar Mantar and later Ramlila Maidan, police said the protesters did not pay heed and kept moving towards India Gate.

Despite prohibitory orders in place, a few hundred first made their way to India Gate. The numbers swelled and one police estimate later put the crowd strength at over 10,000.

The clashes started around 11 am and continued till late evening. Protesters hurled stones at police and broke barricades in a bid to head towards Rashtrapati Bhavan. Police said 12 DTC buses and as many PCR vans were damaged. A Doordarshan vehicle was also attacked.

Police resorted to lathicharge at least ten times and lobbed 250 teargas shells apart from using water cannons. TV crews said water cannons were also directed at them to stop live coverage. Many said their cameras had been damaged.

Chased away from the India Gate lawns, protesters targeted bystanders and damaged buses and cars along the way, using barricade poles as weapons.

Late on Sunday night, Congress leader Renuka Chowdhury went to India Gate to persuade protesters to leave the spot, but her efforts failed. This was the first time a Congress leader came to India Gate to engage with the protesters.

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