Police clash with supporters of 'anarchist' Delhi minister

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Indian riot police armed with batons beat back dozens of supporters of Delhi's Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday to prevent them from joining the self-declared anarchist at a sit-in protest.

On the second day of his dramatic showdown with the capital's police force, Mr Kejriwal ruled out all talk of negotiations and then watched his supporters try and storm the barricades sealing off the protest site outside the home ministry.

The police drove back around 100 of them using sticks known as lathis, leaving many with cuts and bruises but no immediate sign of serious injuries.

The clashes came after Mr Kejriwal, a grassroots anti-corruption crusader before coming to power last month, vowed to escalate a campaign which opponents have dismissed as a publicity stunt.

"We will continue our protest. How can Home Minister (Sushilkumar) Shinde sleep when so many crimes are happening in Delhi? When women are unsafe in the city? We won't negotiate," Mr Kejriwal told reporters.

Hundreds of police have barricaded off the roads leading to the protest, causing traffic chaos and forcing the closure of nearby subway stations.

More than 1,300 police have been deployed at the protest site, a high-security area that houses the parliament and the presidency building, said deputy police commissioner SPS Tyagi.

"Since early today morning the supporters .. have tried to break the security barriers a couple of times. But we won't allow that to happen. We have the full deployments and arrangements in place," Mr Tyagi told AFP.

Mr Kejriwal was sworn in as chief minister of the city of 17 million last month after his new Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party made sensational gains in state elections against India's two biggest parties.

He plans to shake up national elections due before May by once again taking on the ruling Congress and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.

Mr Kejriwal began his protest on Monday to demand that the city police, widely viewed as corrupt and inefficient, be transferred to his state government's control from the national home ministry.

He says the police, the focus of public fury after the fatal gang-rape of a student in December 2012, have failed to prevent crimes against women.

As he launched the sit-in, Mr Kejriwal told supporters: "Yes, I'm an anarchist." But after enjoying overwhelmingly positive media coverage and support from the poor and middle-class, there are signs his latest campaign has backfired and the honeymoon is over.

"Anarchist CM (chief minister) Plunges Delhi Into Chaos," read the front-page of The Hindu newspaper, while The Economic Times headlined "Kejriwal Reduces Govt to a Chaotic Street Play".

Mr Kejriwal, a former tax official, rejected criticism that he was failing to govern responsibly, and was instead relying on grassroots tactics.

"Some people say I'm not working, that the Delhi government is not working.

We are here to support women's safety which is an important issue," he said.

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