Police stop JNU students who were staging a protest over the hostel fee hike outside the UGC office at ITO in New Delhi on Nov 13, 2019.
Police stop JNU students who were staging a protest over the hostel fee hike outside the UGC office at ITO in New Delhi on Nov 13, 2019.
Photo: PTI

New Delhi: Taking a leaf out of the protesters' guide book, the Delhi Police in an unprecedented move took to the streets in 2019 demanding dignity and protection even as it struggled to manage multiple protests over a range of issues during the year gone by.

Even as it faced lows, one of the biggest highs for the force was that it got its new address on Jai Singh Road. The new police headquarters, a swanky 17-storey environment-friendly building in Lutyens' Zone, was inaugurated by Home Minister Amit Shah on October 31.

Apart from taking to the streets themselves, the police were also locked in confrontations with the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students who staged multiple protests against the hostel fee hike.

They also handled multiple protests against the the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and received flak for using force to quell protesters.

Then the policemen themselves protested outside the police headquarters at ITO to demand action against those involved in an attack on their colleague outside the Saket court.

The trigger for the protest was a clash between police and lawyers over a parking dispute at the Tis Hazari court in the first week of November that left at least 20 security personnel and several advocates injured.

The daylong protest, which brought the city to a standstill, saw Delhi Police Commissioner Amulya Patnaik making appeals to his staff to resume duty. Even the families of police personnel took out a candlelight march to India Gate to fight for the welfare of police and demanded creation of an association to address their concerns.

Almost a month later, the police had to resort to using teargas, baton charge and water canons to quell multiple protests against the amended Citizenship Act.

The Jamia Millia Islamia, which went on to become the epicentre of protests against the new law, was the first to witness arson and violence as protesters torched buses and police vehicles a few metres away from the varsity.

In order to quell the protesters and catch 'outsiders' who had entered the varsity after indulging in violence, police barged inside the campus and cracked down on students who were in the library, a move which drew criticism from the university as well as rights bodies.

Incidents of arson were also reported from northeast Delhi's Seelampur, Daryaganj and Seemapuri, prompting police to use drone surveillance, conduct flag marches, to restore peace in the national capital amid the protest calls by people from all walks of life.

The year also witnessed two major fire incidents in the national capital leading to loss of lives.

One of the biggest fire tragedies of the year that shook the national capital was a massive blaze at a four-storey building in old Delhi's Anaj Mandi which led to the death of 45 people in December.

The Anaj Mandi incident was the biggest fire tragedy after the Uphaar fire incident in 1997 that had claimed 59 lives.

In February, a massive fire at the Arpit Palace Hotel in the early hours of the day led to the death of at least 17 people in central Delhi's Karol Bagh.

In both the incidents, the Crime Branch used the 3D laser scan technology for the first time to collect evidence to simulate the crime scene thoroughly.

The year gone by also saw a partial closure in the JNU sedition case with the police filing a 1,200-page charge sheet against former JNU Students' Union (JNUSU) president Kanhaiya Kumar and others for allegedly shouting anti-India slogans during an event on the university campus on February 9, 2016 to commemorate the hanging of Parliament-attack mastermind Afzal Guru.

However, a sanction for prosecution of Kumar and others is still awaited from the Delhi government.

Not only did the Delhi Police handle protests but also grappled with some high-profile cases, including the murder of late ND Tiwari's son Rohit Shekhar Tiwari, allegedly by his wife Apoorva Shukla.

She was arrested for allegedly smothering and strangulating her husband following an argument over him drinking alcohol with his sister-in-law.

In a case of celebratory firing at a New Year's Eve party at former JD(U)MLA Raju Singh's farmhouse, a woman was killed. Singh and his driver were arrested in connection with the incident.

The number of murder cases saw a slight increase from 2018. Delhi reported 458 murder cases till November 15, 2019 compared to 439 during the same period a year ago.

The cases of rape also saw a marginal increase as 1,947 cases were reported till November 15, 2019 as against 1,921 during the same period in 2018.

The police not only received flak for their handling of protests but also failing to curb incidents of street crimes.

While snatching incidents showed a downward trend in the data available for 2019, with 5,511 reported cases till November 15 as against 6,024 in 2018 during the same period, the cases gave a tough time to the police and made those walking on the roads anxious.

Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi's niece Damyanti Ben Modi became a target of snatchers who wrenched her purse containing Rs 50,000, two mobile phones and some documents from her grasp at Civil Lines here. The incident occurred a few kilometres away from the residences of Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

The year 2019 also witnessed gang rivalry spilling out on to the streets of Delhi. In one such incident reported in May, two criminals were killed after a shootout between rival gangs near the Dwarka Mor metro station in southwest Delhi.

The police's image also took a beating when several video clips of a brawl between a tempo driver and police personnel went viral on social media in June.

In one of the clips, the driver could be seen chasing policemen with a sword and in another, the personnel were seen thrashing him and his son with batons. The incident had triggered protests in Mukherjee Nagar area.

Following the incident, two police personnel were dismissed and two others were suspended in connection with the assault as an inquiry revealed that their act was "unprovoked", "highly unprofessional" and "abhorrent".

July started on a stressful note for the Delhi Police as tension prevailed in central Delhi's Hauz Qazi area after clashes broke out between two communities over a parking issue, following which a temple was vandalised.

August also saw tension prevailing in southeast Delhi's Tughlakabad area after a protest against the demolition of a Ravidas temple turned violent, prompting police to resort to "mild lathicharge" and use tear gas to disperse the crowd.

The protest was organised by the Bhim Army and 96 people, including the outfit's chief Chandra Shekhar Aazad, were arrested.

Aazad was again arrested in December for allegedly instigating people to commit violence during a protest against the CAA by giving an "inflammatory speech".

At least four cases of triple talaq were reported in the national capital after the practice of instant divorce by verbal decree was criminalised.

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Free Press Journal