Hardened protesters trickle back to Jantar MantarMarch 19th, 2010 - 5:53 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, March 19 (IANS) A day after more than 100 of them were forcibly evicted from the Indian capital’s most popular protest site, some 15 hardened men and women returned to the Jantar Mantar observatory Friday to resume their protests for a myriad of causes.
Almost all of them insisted that they would not vacate the place any more — police or no police.
Although a few claimed that they had camped through the night, 20 armed policemen kept a close watch on the 15 or so returnees, leaving little scope for them to erect their cloth tents or other makeshift shelters.
On Thursday, the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) and Delhi Police evacuated the venue and told campers that they could stage protests there between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. — not earlier or later than that.
For once, the usually busy protest venue wore a deserted look Friday, with torn posters and banners strewn around.
Some protesters complained about the time restrictions.
Ram Lochan Maurya, 48, who has stayed at the site for five years against an Uttar Pradesh-based Maoist group, told IANS: “We are here to protest genuine issues. We are not criminals. This (crackdown) was done to break our morale and force us to call off our protest.”
Gayatri Devi, 90, came from Bihar five years ago to fight for her freedom fighters’ pension.
Even though the police Thursday took away her belongings including clothes and vessels, she refuses to quit.
“I won’t leave this place till my voice is heard. I have been protesting for the past five years. They took away everything, and did not even spare my clothes,” she wailed.
The Jantar Mantar, located less than a kilometre from the parliament house, has been popular with protesters from across the country. Many end up staying there for months, even years, in temporary tents or shacks.
Over a period of time, the place turned an eyesore.
On Thursday, policemen packed in 15 jeeps swooped on the 100-200 protesters and forcibly shooed them away, freely using the batons to make their point.
“Most protesters came from far away places like Punjab and Bihar. If they ask us suddenly to shift, where will they go?” lamented Sanjay Kumar, a social activist who has camped at Jantar Mantar for six long years.
The NDMC said the crackdown would continue till the Commonwealth Games gets over in October.
Asked if police would remove protesters every night, Additional Commissioner of Police (New Delhi) S. Dash told IANS: “It’s to early to comment. We will see.”
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