At least 45 people, including 13 police officers, were injured as Walled City protests that had largely remained peaceful till 5 pm turned violent on Friday evening — a turn of events police have attributed to over 1,000 people coming to the protest site at Delhi Gate from Seelampur more than 15 km away. Around 6 pm, a constable’s car parked outside Darya Ganj police station was set on fire, and as stone pelting started, police used lathi-charge and a water cannon to disperse the crowd.
A total of 32 people were detained, apart from several minors who were apprehended and remained inside Darya Ganj police station premises till late Friday night. Outside, several lawyers had gathered after receiving panicked WhatsApp messages from civil rights activists.
According to the nearby Lok Nayak hospital, the injuries ranged from fractures to bruises and lacerations on the head. Around 11 pm, an impromptu protest started outside the old Delhi Police headquarters at ITO, with people demanding the release of those detained in Darya Ganj, 2 km away.
The day had started far more calmly, with thousands gathering at Old Delhi’s Jama Masjid following the afternoon prayers. Among them was Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad, who reached the venue after evading Delhi Police. As Azad, with Constitution in hand, started speaking, police moved in to detain him. In the crowd and chaos, though, he managed to give personnel the slip — only to reappear at the mosque two hours later and head inside for evening prayers. Till late Friday night, Azad was inside the mosque as Delhi Police teams waited outside.
Around 3 pm, people started moving from Jama Masjid to Delhi Gate, 2 km away, but the protests were limited to sloganeering. Around 5 pm, protesters had started to leave, police said.
Delhi Police spokesperson Mandeep Singh Randhawa said, “Local protesters from the area had left and this was a group from outside (that clashed with police). They set a private vehicle on fire and we used water cannons. No teargas or rubber bullets were used.”
Police attributed the root of the violence to a large gathering forming in Seelampur through the day, which grew to 30,000 people at one point. Thousands had also gathered in four more areas in Northeast Delhi. It was when splintered groups of these protesters decided to head to Delhi Gate that trouble started, said a senior police officer.