In unprecedented protests by Delhi police, thousands of its personnel on Tuesday laid siege outside the Police Headquarters for 11 hours and staged a virtual revolt sparked by two attacks on their colleagues before calling off their stir following multiple appeals including from their chief.
The protests in which families of the personnel also took to streets were withdrawn in the night after an assurance by senior officers that their grievances will be addressed.
Addressing the protesters, Special Commissioner of Police (Crime) Satish Golcha urged them to end their stir and resume duty, while assuring them that a review petition will be filed against the Delhi High Court order in connection with a clash between cops and lawyers at the Tis Hazari Courts Complex. Delhi Police has a strength of over 80,000 personnel.
Ordering a judicial inquiry by one of its retired judges into the clash, the high court at a special sitting on November 3 suspended a police official and transferred two senior police officials during the pendency of the investigations. Golcha said the injured policemen will get an ex-gratia of at least Rs 25,000.
The protests were triggered by the two attacks on their colleagues, one on Monday outside Saket District Court and another on Saturday at the Tis Hazari Courts Complex after a parking dispute between an on-duty policeman and a lawyer which led to at least 20 security personnel and several advocates being injured.
Two FIRs were registered against unidentified persons, who were seen in a video hitting a uniformed policeman on a motorcycle with his elbow and slapping him outside the Saket court.
Shouting slogans like "We Want Justice" and "Go Back, Go Back" as their senior officers appealed for calm, the surging crowd of protesters, some in uniform and some in civvies, gathered outside the Police Headquarters in the Income Tax Office (ITO) area in the morning itself.
In the evening, one of the protestors read out the demands including revoking the licenses of the lawyers who assaulted the policemen and quashing of FIRs against the cops.
The family members gathered to protest at the India Gate, about 2 km away from the police headquarters, in an effort to spread the agitation.
"Delhi Police officers are on duty round the clock so that the people can celebrate every festival without fear. But while making those sacrifices, they get thrashed on the roads. Don't we have feelings or any rights?" said Munesh Dahiya, the wife of a police officer.
As the protests escalated, the Centre was understood to be unhappy over the manner in which it was held in violation of service conduct even though, according to an official, it is sympathetic to their grievances.
The Bar Council of India asked various bar bodies to identify lawyers "indulging in hooliganism" and requested advocates to end their protests, which are "bringing a bad name to the institution".
The Centre too rushed to the Delhi High Court urging it that its order for no coercive action against advocates, passed on Sunday following the lawyers-police clash at Tis Hazari court, should not be applicable for subsequent incidents. The protestors did not relent despite several appeals by top police officers all through the day.
Police Commissioner Amulya Patnaik had also made an unsuccessful appeal to the protestors to end their stir. "We have to behave like a disciplined force. The government and the people expect us to uphold the law, it is our big responsibility. I urge you to resume duty," Patnaik said, as he was jeered by the police personnel amid shouting of slogans. "The last few days have been testing for us. A judicial enquiry is underway and I request you to have faith in the process," he said.
As the protests continued, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said the Delhi government wants an immediate solution to the police-lawyer standoff and termed the prevailing situation "unfortunate". Lieutenant General Anil Baijal also reviewed the situation.
"In the wake of the recent unfortunate incident, it is imperative to restore the trust between the two and also to ensure that justice is done impartially in the entire matter," said a statement quoting Baijal.
Holding up placards with slogans such as "We are human in police uniforms", "We are not punching bags" and "Protectors Need Protection", the policemen and policewomen urged their seniors to stand with them to save the honour of the uniform.
"No police officer nor any politician went to the hospital to check on our injured colleagues. It is disappointing and demoralising for us," said a woman constable on the condition of anonymity.
Recalling similar clashes between lawyers and policemen way back in 1988, many in the crowd recalled former IPS officer Kiran Bedi who was then at the heart of the controversy.
Some were carrying a big poster of Kiran Bedi and now Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry, chanting slogans like "Kiran Bedi sherni hamari" and "Our Commissioner should be like Kiran Bedi".
Leaders of the amorphous protest movement urged their colleagues in other states to join them. "Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal went to meet injured lawyers but did not meet our policemen who were also injured in the incident. Isn't it unfair to us," added another.
The Congress seized upon the police protests to target the Centre, saying it is a "new low" for India since Independence and shows Home Minister Amit Shah's "failure of leadership". It alleged that law and order have collapsed in the national capital.The incidents drew sharp criticism from senior police officials who took to Twitter to register their discontent.