Delhi Police was facing a virtual revolt from its rank and file on Tuesday as thousands of personnel laid siege outside the Police Headquarters, rejecting their chief's pleas to go back to work.
The unprecedented protests were triggered by two attacks on their colleagues, one on Monday and another on Saturday after a parking dispute between an on-duty policeman and a lawyer which led to at least 20 security personnel and several advocates being injured.
Two FIRs were registered against a lawyer, who was seen in a video hitting a uniformed policeman on a motorcycle with his elbow and slapping him outside the Saket District Court.
Shouting slogans like "We Want Justice" and "Go Back, Go Back" as their senior officers appealed for calm, the surging crowd of protesters, some in uniform and some in civvies, gathered outside the Police Headquarters in ITO in the morning itself and were unrelenting in their demand as the hours passed.
By evening, many of their family members started moving towards India Gate in an effort to spread the agitation.
"Delhi Police officers are on duty around the clock so that the people can celebrate every festival without fear. But while making those sacrifices, they get thrashed on the roads. Don't we have feelings or any rights?" asked Munesh Dahiya, the wife of a police officer.
Faced with the angry crowds wearing black bands, Police Commissioner Amulya Patnaik came out of his office to assure them that their concerns will be addressed.
"We have to behave like a disciplined force. The government and the people expect us to uphold the law, it is our big responsibility. I urge you to resume duty," Patnaik told the police personnel.
"The last few days have been testing for us. A judicial enquiry is underway and I request you to have faith in the process," he told the gathering.
He later told journalists that efforts were on to pacify the law enforcers and senior police officers were trying to resolve the issues.
"We have to first save the honour of our khakhi. Only then will we report for duty," said a policeman.
Delhi Police has a strength of over 80,000 personnel.
Holding up placards with slogans such as "We are human in police uniforms", "We are not punching bags" and "Protectors Need Protection", the policemen and policewomen urged their seniors to stand with them to save the honour of the uniform.
"No police officer nor any politician went to the hospital to check on our injured colleagues. It is disappointing and demoralising for us," said a woman constable on the condition of anonymity.
Recalling a similar lawyer-cop clash way back in 1988, many in the crowd remembered former IPS officer Kiran Bedi who was then at the heart of the controversy.
Some were carrying a big poster of former IPS officer Kiran Bedi and now lieutenant governor of Puducherry, chanting slogans like "Kiran Bedi sherni hamari" and "Our Commissioner should be like Kiran Bedi".
Even after Patnaik addressed the protesters, they refused to disperse and demanded that an association be formed for them.
Leaders of the amorphous protest movement urged their colleagues in other states to join them.
"We are the ones who face the brunt. We are beaten up and want that there should be an association to look into our issues and take up the problems faced by us with the top brass," said a protester who did not want to be named.
"Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal went to meet injured lawyers but did not meet our policemen who were also injured in the incident. Isn't it unfair to us," added another.
The protest caused traffic snarls at several intersections leading to ITO.
Delhi Traffic police took to Twitter to issue traffic advisories.
"Traffic Movement is closed in the carriageway from ITO towards Laxmi Nagar. Motorist are advised to use Delhi Gate & Raj Ghat".
The immediate provocation for the protest was the incident at the Saket Court.
Union Minister Kiren Rijiju shared the video of the Saket incident on Twitter saying, "Let's not take law into our hands. It's not question of supporting any group".
Saturday's clash also led to many vehicles being vandalised or set on fire, according to officials.
The incidents drew sharp criticism from senior police officials who took to Twitter to register their discontent.
"I am sorry.. we are police ... we don't exist.. we don't have families...we don't have human rights!!!" said former Delhi Police PRO Madhur Verma, currently posted as Arunachal Pradesh's Deputy Inspector General (DIG).
The IPS Association also condemned the attack and expressed solidarity with colleagues subjected to "humiliation" and "assault".
"Incident involving police & lawyers unfortunate. All should take a balanced view of it based on facts in public domain. Countrywide, police stands in solidarity with those police personnel subjected to physical assault & humiliation. Condemn all attempts to break law, by anyone!," the association tweeted from its official handle.
Former chief spokesperson of Delhi Police, Deependra Pathak, said, "Lumpen elements in the garb of Black Coat are on total rampage endangering social orderliness in Delhi. Fear of law need to be instilled among these mischief mongers.@DelhiPolice need to interpose pending Police-Lawyer clash cases".
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)