A retired DGP whose Twitter profile says “Firing on all barrels to secure justice for the Hindus” suggested on Sunday night that Delhi police would be entitled to fire on the protesting wrestlers if necessary, prompting a dare from wrestler Bajrang Punia.
“Will even shoot if necessary. But not because of what you are saying. Right now, they have just been dragged and thrown away like sacks of garbage,” former Kerala police chief N.C. Asthana, who retired in 2019, had tweeted in Hindi.
“What you are saying” appeared to be an allusion to Punia’s reported comment of “shoot us” during Sunday’s police action on the protesting wrestlers.
“Article 129 gives the police the right to shoot. Under proper circumstances that wish will also be fulfilled too. But to know that it is necessary to be educated. See you again on the post-mortem table!” Asthana wrote.
On Monday morning, Punia dared Asthana to shoot him.
“Ye IPS officer hamein goli marne ki baat kar raha hai. Bhai samne khade hain, bata kahan aana hai goli khane. Kasam hai peeth nahi dikhayenge, seene pe khayenge teri goli. Ye hi rah gaya hai ab hamare saath karna to ye bhi sahi,” the Olympic medallist tweeted in Hindi.
A translation: “This IPS officer is talking about shooting us. Brother, I am standing here, tell me where to come to get shot. I swear I will not show my back, I will take your bullet in my chest. If this is what is left to be done to us, fine, do it.”
Asthana’s comments came hours before shooter Abhinav Bindra, India’s first individual Olympic gold medallist, condemned the Delhi police action against the protesting wrestlers and said the “horrifying images” had left him “haunted” and “sleepless”. India football captain Sunil Chhetri had on Sunday night denounced the police crackdown.
Asthana describes himself on his Twitter profile as “Nuclear Physicist. Author – 265 research papers/ articles & 51 books. Former DGP Kerala & ADG BSF/CRPF. Firing on all barrels to secure justice for the Hindus.”
Asthana deleted his tweet after widespread condemnation.
The Indian Police Foundation and Institute, a Delhi-based think tank inaugurated by then Union home minister Rajnath Singh in 2015, on Monday condemned Asthana’s comment.
“Deeply disturbing to see such a threatening tweet from a retired police officer. This kind of behaviour is unacceptable. It tarnishes the reputation of the entire police force,” the Foundation, which describes its objectives as “police reform and the improvement of policing through research, capacity building and policy advocacy”, tweeted.
Rajya Sabha MP Priyanka Chaturvedi said: “Former IPS officer, now a full-time foul-mouthed human. Where & When did our country’s training for such noble services go so wrong?”
Asthana had on Sunday night been responding to a tweet from the Hindi newspaper Dainik Bhaskar, which said: “Wrestlers at Jantar Mantar are in police custody. They were jumping the barricades to go to Parliament. Bajrang Punia said, ‘Shoot us’.”
Punia had said: “Does any government treat the champions of the country like this? What crime have we committed? Is this the way the government should behave with wrestlers who have brought medals for the country? Shoot us if you want.”
On Sunday, several of India’s top men and women wrestlers were roughed up, pinned to the ground, dragged away and detained while Prime Minister Narendra Modi was inaugurating the new Parliament building.
The wrestlers — who were demanding the arrest of their federation chief and BJP parliamentarian Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh on sexual harassment charges — wanted to march to the new Parliament to hold a Mahila Panchayat (women’s assembly).
Detained around noon, they were released late on Sunday night after being booked in an FIR under charges that included rioting.
On Monday, the Delhi police imposed Section 144 —which prohibits the assembly of more than four people — at Jantar Mantar and said the wrestlers and their supporters would not be allowed back at the capital’s designated protest site.
“Last night was sleepless, haunted by the horrifying images of my fellow Indian wrestlers protesting,” Bindra, gold medallist in 10m air rifle shooting at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, tweeted.
“It’s high time we establish independent safeguarding measures across sporting organisations. We must ensure that if such situations arise, they are dealt with utmost sensitivity and respect. Every athlete deserves a safe and empowering environment.”
Chhetri tweeted: “Why does it have to come down to our wrestlers being dragged around without any consideration? This isn’t the way to treat anyone. I really hope this whole situation is assessed the way it should be.”
Olympic medallist Sakshi Malik, one of the wrestlers who faced the police crackdown, on Monday told reporters: “Everything is visible in those videos (of the police action). How can you indulge in rioting when there are 20-30 constables stopping one wrestler?”
A Delhi police officer said the wrestlers would not be allowed back at Jantar Mantar, where they had been protesting for a month.
“The protesting wrestlers violated law and order yesterday and indulged in rioting,” the officer claimed.
“We have imposed Section 144 at Jantar Mantar and they will not be allowed to go there. If they apply for permission to stage a sit-in again in the future, they will be allowed at any suitable, notified place other than Jantar Mantar.”
The wrestlers have denied the police’s accusations and said they were protesting peacefully when they were roughed up and dragged away. They said they were discussing how to take their protest forward.