According to police, there has been an increase of more than 23 per cent in protests and dharnas at Jantar Mantar in 2022. Police said that removal of Covid limits was a major factor in the increase.
As per the official data seen by news agency PTI, 189 dharnas and 661 protests were held at Jantar Mantar last year with police permission, compared to 560 dharnas and 129 protests in 2021.
The national capital was affected by the second wave of COVID-19 in 2021 between April and May, and during that time the Delhi government put restrictions on all forms of meetings, including protests.
According to the close reading of the statistics, there were 23.36 percent more protests and dharnas at Jantar Mantar in 2018 than there were in 2021.
The protest requesting the establishment of an Ahir regiment in the Indian Army and the farmer protest against the Centre over the minimum support price were two of the largest demonstrations that took place at Jantar Mantar in 2022.
Dharnas and demonstrations are both considered forms of public protest by the authorities.
A senior police official described the distinction between a dharna and a demonstration by stating that a dharna is a type of sit-in protest at a public location to demand action or attention over a specific issue and a demonstration is a public gathering to raise awareness about an issue.
“Dharnas are mostly peaceful in nature while demonstrations can turn aggressive,” he said.
According to the officer, a group must request permission from the relevant district police before organising any dharna or demonstration. The district police will then decide whether to grant permission based on the problem, the organisers, and the sort of gathering.
“But if a group of people gather without permission, in such a scenario, the protesters are allowed considering the nature of the protest and if it is not against an immediate issue or the government or is not affecting the public at large,” he explained.
When discussing the difficulties the police face in dealing with demonstrators, the officer said it is their duty to make sure the protesters stay outside of Parliament, the PMO, and the homes of the President, the home minister, and any other key dignitaries.
He said that the police make sure that there is no security breach and that law and order is upheld. Whenever two groups with opposing ideas converge to protest the same issue, the police need to make sure they do not confront one another, he explained.
Police officers claim that they also need to prevent protesters from harming themselves by doing something like setting themselves on fire or climbing a tree.
“Most importantly, we ensure that protesters do not indulge in any hate speech. Besides, we have to ensure that no anti-national, caste or religious slogans are raised which can disturb the communal harmony of society,” the officer said.
He mentioned the arrests made by Delhi Police in August 2021 for allegedly shouting anti-Muslim slogans during a demonstration near Jantar Mantar, in which former BJP spokesperson Ashwini Upadhyay was also detained.
“We also need to ensure that protesters do not turn aggressive, go beyond Jantar Mantar and indulge in blocking traffic. Police and paramilitary forces are deployed at the protest site to ensure no untoward incident occurs, and in case it happens, protesters are detained and legal action is taken against them,” the officer added.