Anatomy of Protests
Delhi witnessed a large number of demonstrations, rallies, and dharnas by various organisations from different parts of the country on a wide number of issues ranging from political, communal, labor to youth and student affairs. Anup Verma and Abhay Singh analyse the role of the city police during these mass protests.
Weeks before the release of Padmaavat, Delhi Police started to strengthen their security arrangements to provide cinema halls a security cover as there was a possibility of violent protests in the city. As the release date was nearing, the city police held meetings with their SHOs in all districts and notified them to make sure that no untoward incident happened during the release.
With two days to go, Delhi Police also held meetings with the cinema hall staff regarding security arrangements and asked them to make sure that every CCTV was working and was installed in right positions. Meanwhile, messages from the fringe group started to come in Whatsapp that they will hold the protest against the release. Taking in the view of such messages DCPs of every single district made sure that all cinema halls got security cover. The day before the release of the magnum opus, senior officials themselves visited several areas to check the arrangements.
Security in the bordering areas in the National Capital Region (NCR) was heightened and the areas were identified from where the protesters can enter the city. Motorcycle patrolling was initiated, and with proper security gears Delhi Police was on the street. Delhi also witnessed a few protesters opposing against the release of the film, who were then detained by the police. It was just a glimpse of the security arrangements put by the law enforcement agencies to tackle with any protest, since last year remained quite busy for city cops as they had to tackle several programmes including protests, rallies, demonstrations, and marches. Millennium Post spoke with some officials and prepared a feature to give you an insight on how the city police prepare themselves for any programmes.
Delhi being the seat of the Union government witnessed a large number of demonstrations, rallies, and dharnas by various organisations from different parts of the country on a wide number of issues ranging from political, communal, labor to youth and student affairs.
Central Delhi alone witnessed 75 processions, 144 demonstrations, 15 strikes, 62 rallies and marches, 15 strikes and 97 dharnas. The communal situation in the district remained absolutely under control and all major law and order arrangements were dealt with successfully. The New Delhi area in 2017 witnessed 1063 demonstrations, 12 rallies and 2383 dharnas wherein lakh of peoples participated. New Delhi district also handled 22 religious processions and gatherings as well as 1960 visits and movements of foreign heads of states, governments and high dignitaries. 34 demonstrations, 30 dharnas and 15 processions were successfully handled by South West Delhi.
The National Green Tribunal had recently banned all protests and dharnas around the historic Jantar Mantar area here, which has been a hotspot of many agitations over the past decades, saying such activities violate environmental laws.
An alert New Delhi
When asked whether the protests in the past year have been peaceful and silent, Additional Commissioner of Police (New Delhi) Braja Kishore Singh told Millennium Post, "Sometimes when protesters try to go in the prohibited area we have to stop them; also there is a chance of the protesters turning violent after which action is taken," said the DCP.
The New Delhi range is headed by Ajay Chaudhary, Joint Commissioner of Police, and the district has been looked after by Additional CP BK Singh, Additional DCP (1) Dr Ashok Malik and Additional DCP (II) Kumar Gyanesh. The New Delhi district comprises of Lutyens Delhi, entire hub of law legislation and diplomatic area. It has varied challenges of law and order, safety and security including overall policing of the most sensitive parts of Delhi. These challenges require police in the area to be alert, smart, dynamic and innovative. Before the NGT order that banned protests in the Jantar Mantar area, the district witnessed several programmes, with protesters gathering in front of Parliament Street police station as well. According to Additional CP Singh, before any protest they talk to the organisers about the motive and also check on the past history of the protesters. "We also have intelligence input regarding the protest," added Singh.
Proper meetings regarding security is held before the protests and the major priority is to make sure that the protests do not hinder traffic movement. He further added that the police personnel is briefed about their duties and about the protest. Sources claimed that during briefing they are also trained by their senior official to tackle a situation if the protest turned violent. "Precautions like proper safety gears, and water cannons are always always kept handy, near the protest spot," said Singh.
2017: successful year for central Delhi district
The Central Range is headed by Rajesh Khurana, Joint Commissioner of Police whereas the Central district is looked after by DCP Mandeep Singh Randhawa, Additional DCP (1), Anto Alphonse and Additional DCP (II) Jimmy Chiram.
In 2017, the communal situation remained absolutely under control and all major law and order arrangements were dealt with successfully. According to Police, before any protest they get application regarding the protest, and after going through the motive they decide whether or not to give approval. After getting an approval they talk to the protesting party. "We don't allow the protest to happen in such places which might hinder traffic movement," police said. DCP Mandeep Singh Randhawa stated that there were several protests last year which was properly handled. "For any success, proper planning is required which Central District has done so far," said the DCP.
Preparation for protests
There are different security layers prepared by police for protests, which include ropes, barricading and use of force like lathi-charge. The police first talk to the protesters and try to resolve the matter, if it does not help, they make sure to barricade the area properly – a major step which is intimated to them during police briefing.
"If we use barricades on the right spots we can easily stop the protesters from entering the prohibited area," police said adding that double barricading is done for major protests. Delhi Police personnel have been told to keep themselves calm and use decent language with the protesters. Those deployed for the protests must address the protesters as 'Ma'am' and 'Sir'. "There should be no use of any offensive language with the protesters," said an official. Sources also claimed that behaviour of the police personnel with the protesters are monitored by a senior police official. They are also taught about formation – the most important thing – during any protest and maintain composure during agitation. The women police personnel have been trained to tackle women protesters. "Police personel should be polite as well as firm," said Anto Alphonse, Additional DCP (central Delhi).
For demolition related issues a joint survey is done by the city police after which the staff are deployed. Controlling rumours is also an important task during demolition. In Kathputli Colony, a protest was seen against demolition in which some residents did not want to leave the colony. Most residents denied any knowledge of the notice about demolition and alleged they were lathi-charged by police and their locality was tear-gassed. "If there are chances of rumours turning a protest violent, we make sure that it never happens, so we carry loudspeakers with us and also talk to the protesters to convey the truth," police said.
During student protests and rallies there are chances of some political leaders joining them, which might cause security threats. According to police, even though the leaders have their own security, they make sure that the area where the leaders talk to the students is properly cordoned. Unlawful protests are not allowed by the police and ACP rank police official can take action against such type of protests. During violent protests, the staffs are told to not drag or beat any protester who is lying on the ground. They are also not allowed to hit any protester above the knee, if need be. The women police personnel are in charge of handling female protesters, and no male police personnel must touch them.
For any religious procession, Delhi Police first identifies the vulnerable places in order to avoid communal clashes. The areas are identified as per the population, and security is deployed there after assessment of risk.
Videography plays a very important role in protests, marches or demonstrations, as it gives police a vital clue if some untoward incidents happen. It also creates a fear in the minds of the protesters to get caught if they go against the law and vandalise property. For any programme including protests, the role of Special Branch of Delhi Police is very much important as they are primarily tasked with the collection of intelligence having a bearing on prevention of untoward incidents and maintenance of law and order with particular emphasis on communal harmony.
New Policy Model
Parliament Street is an important police station where demonstrations and dharnas are held regularly. Over the years, the frequency of such demonstrations/dharnas had increased considerably, and the participation of youth and students has also substantially risen. It is expected of the officers/men of this police station to deal with the demonstrators with the requisite empathy and tact as well as professional efficiency. Keeping in view the fact that any negligence or mishandling on the part of any police personnel deployed on such police arrangements can aggravate the situation to a more serious law and order problem, it has been decided to make Parliament Street more officer-oriented so that the handling of such demonstrators can be done mostly by officers of supervisory levels.
A hawker's joy
Protest, strikes, rallies, marches and demonstrations are done to express anger to the authorities, but for vendors it brings joy as they are able to sell food items during such protests. Budha Ram, a vendor from Bihar who sells peanuts and sweets, said that during protests he can easily earn more than Rs 500. 16-years-old Ajay (name changed) a street child who sells cream-rolls during protests, stated that most of the food items are sold during political parties and students protests, rallies and marches. "We make around 150 cream-rolls which are sold within an hour during any such programme," said the boy. The Capital also witnessed a bizarre protest from farmers who had come from Tamil Nadu with skulls and bones to renew their agitation for a loan waiver and drought-relief package. After the NGT ban, the Jantar Mantar area has been the place for employees of nearby offices to come and bask in the sun during winters and enjoy Rajma-chawal from the nearby shops.