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Delhi lockdown and crackdown
Ex-army chief, Ramdev booked for inciting mob

New Delhi, Dec. 24: Two senior police officers were suspended today over the bus gang rape and an FIR was registered against former army chief V.K. Singh and yoga televangelist Ramdev on the charges of inciting a mob and rioting.

All the roads and Metro stations leading to India Gate and Rajpath were closed to the public since morning following Sunday’s violent protests and clashes with police. Eight alleged rioters have been arrested.

A senior officer said a chargesheet would be filed against the six bus rape accused by the end of the week to pave the way for a speedy trial.

Lieutenant governor Tejinder Khanna, who cut short his US trip and returned to Delhi this morning, met the police brass and women’s groups to discuss safety measures for women.

“We have suspended two assistant commissioners of police: Mohan Singh Dabas (traffic) and Yagram (police control room),” Khanna said.

“I have also instructed the police commissioner to seek an explanation from deputy commissioners Premnath (traffic) and Satbir Kataria (police control room). We’ll decide further action after that.”

The two assistant commissioners were in charge of a south Delhi area where the bus in which the girl was raped had crossed three police checkpoints without arousing suspicion. The deputy commissioners have been asked to explain why the crime could not be prevented.

An officer said V.K. Singh and Ramdev had been booked for inciting the mob at Jantar Mantar yesterday after they were prevented from marching towards battle zone India Gate.

This morning, hundreds of policemen were deployed at India Gate. The police used barricades to lock down Rajpath, the stretch linking India Gate to Raisina Hill, the seat of government. All traffic was shut down around the area, leading to chaos in parts of central Delhi.

Nine Metro stations in the area — Pragati Maidan, Mandi House, Barakhamba Road, Rajiv Chowk, Patel Chowk, Central Secretariat, Udyog Bhavan, Race Course Road and Khan Market — too were closed since morning to prevent protesters from reaching India Gate.

However, peaceful protests were allowed at Jantar Mantar where around 500 people, mostly students’ unions backed by the Left and the BJP, led the demonstration. Later, members of Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party joined them.

Around 100 to 150 apolitical protesters, mostly activists and girl students with their parents, criticised the political parties for hijacking the agitation.

“It’s because of them that the peaceful protest turned violent yesterday,” said Tina Sharma, a woman activist who came from Dwarka in southwest Delhi.

“Hundreds of people who were outraged by the bus rape had gone to India Gate to protest for the past three days, but there are hardly 200 people today. We do not want this protest to fade away but these political parties have their vested interests.”

Two members of Anna Hazare’s platform, India Against Corruption, who came to the venue blamed Kejriwal’s supporters for yesterday’s violence.

“They brought in lumpen elements who triggered violence to divert the issue. They want to create chaos in the country to further their interests,” alleged a Hazare camp follower.

Home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said certain “political elements” were behind the violence at India Gate and its neighbourhood. “We are inquiring into it.”

Police commissioner Neeraj Kumar refused to apologise for yesterday’s police action at India Gate but said he was sorry if any “innocent” protester suffered harm.

“If an innocent person has come to harm, I apologise. I feel sorry for that. But I do not apologise for what the police did there,” he told CNN-IBN. He partly blamed the media, accusing it of stoking the protests.

Asked if he was under any pressure to quit, he said he was “not a quitter”.

“If we do only police-bashing, if we do bashing-the-system every day, it is not going to lead us anywhere. If sacking the police commissioner improves the safety of women, then do it every day,” he said.