New Delhi, Dec 23 (IBNS): Police and politicians appealed for calm as pitched battles were fought between protesters and police on Sunday at India Gate area over the gangrape of a Delhi medical student where groups led by political parties and similar outfits infiltrated the agitation by citizens and tried to hijack it unleashing violence.
Arson and destruction of public property and attack on policemen who fired teargas shells and used water cannons shifted much of the focus from the peaceful agitation earlier to a law and order crisis as Delhi Police said hooligans are hijacking the agitation from people.
Cars were overturned and police vehicles were attacked. Wooden structures meant for Republic Day parade were set on fire like a bonfire.
People had been converging at the Ground Zero of agitation at India Gate since morning defying prohibitory orders under Section 144.
"Sit at one place and peacefully protest. We have accepted all your suggestions. Now hooligans are hijacking the agenda of the people," said a senior cop at a press conference and urged media to appeal to the crowd to disperse and not let vested interest groups hijack their movement.
"Lots of constables have been injured and two DCPs were hurt seriously from stoning. More than 100 teargas shells were fired," said the police official.
However, some violent groups were seen damaging cars, burning public property and trying to break through the barricades.
Amid reports that the opposition BJP's youth wings have also joined the agitation at India Gate, Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj appealed for peace too.
"Please do not resort to violence. That is not the solution. It is our country. This is our problem. We will definitely find a solution," tweeted Swaraj.
"I have just spoken to the Home Minister to convene an all party meeting to resolve this situation.
"We appreciate your feelings. Your anger is genuine. But please give us some time," posted Swaraj.
There were teargassing by police again and again as protesters threw stones and converged at the ground zero of the movement at India Gate despite several measures by the authorities to block their routes, including closing down of metro stations.
Several were injured on Sunday since morning in the protest that were dispersed again and again by police only to find people regrouped and leading fresh agitations.
The victim, battling for life at Safdarjung Hospital, was being operated again on Sunday, reports said. She is far from being out of danger and reports said her condition only deteriorated in a way after some initial signs of improvement in past few days.
Police resorted to teargassing on Sunday at the India Gate to disperse the protesters even as the fire of agitation raged with youngsters braving the winter chill of Delhi to scream for justice and exemplary measures.
Police also used water cannons to control the crowd at India Gate outer circle as protesters with placards screaming "We Want Justice" remained in belligerent mood.
Police allowed only people on foot to enter the India Gate circle.
Some groups with political affiliations, including groups like Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena that had assaulted Supreme Court lawyer and activist Prashant Bhusan, joined the movement as they mixed up with the crowd of students who had gathered earlier just to protest spontaneously.
Baba Ramdev also joined the stir on Sunday by holding rally at Ramlila Maidan.
Meanwhile, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress general secretary on Sunday met one group of protesters who were camping on streets and agitating relentlessly to decry the Delhi gangrape.
The protesters after coming out of the residence of Sonia Gandhi said they were assured of action and appealed to other protesters to maintain peace as they continue to agitate.
Two representatives among the protesters, including a girl, addressed the media on their meeting but refused to identify them by names.
The young students were also accompanied by junior home minister RPN Singh when they spoke to media.
"We have assured to fast track this case and ensure day to day basis hearing," said Singh.
"These group had met us last night and they were asked to come at 10 am. We assured them to make this case a rarest of rare case. We will ensure strongest possible punishment for the culprits," said Singh.
"They have given us many suggestions. We are considering them. We will see that the victim is not forced to prove her charge but the accused has to defend himself," said Singh.
"The government has heard them loudly and very, very clearly. Many in groups also said they are against capital punishment but strong punishment," said Singh.
Sources said Sonia Gandhi agreed with protesters that women do not feel safe in Delhi and need more security.
Rahul Gandhi also met them briefly and while promising action tried to reason with them that decisions cannot be driven by just emotions, reports said.
Sonia had met some of the protesters on Saturday and had promised to speak to them on Sunday.
The protesters continue to defy the curfew imposed in New Delhi district and many have not moved from India Gate, despite the police appealing to them to move to Jantar Mantar or Ramlila Maidan.
The government imposed a curfew in New Delhi district on Sunday to check the protests that threatened to go out of control. It also closed seven metro stations in Delhi.
The move came after some protesters carried out overnight demonstrations at Vijay Chowk and India Gate protesting against the gang rape of a 23-year-old medical student on December 16.
Police evacuated the areas and took the protesters away in buses.
Seven metro stations near India Gate - Patel Chowk, Udyog Bhavan, Race Course, Central Secretariat, Khan Market, Barakhamba Road and Mandi House - were closed from 6am on Sunday.
More demonstrations are scheduled to take place in Delhi and other cities across the country on Sunday.