Extraordinary security procedures, including the jailing or house arrest of hundreds of potential demonstrators, have dispelled widespread fears that the ninth Asian Games now being held here would become an arena for political violence and an embarrassment to the government of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
In the sixth day of the "Asiad" -- the Asian equivalent of the summer Olympics -- a massive display of force by Indian security forces in the capital has reduced to a whimper threats by various extremist groups to create chaos.
The Indian government, which has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in an effort to turn the games into a showcase for Third World development, appears intent on writing the definitive textbook on how to maintain order during a series of international sports events spanning nearly three weeks in 17 stadiums.
Parts of the Indian capital appear almost under siege by an estimated 10,000 police and Army security forces, many of them armed and equipped for riot duty. An additional 30,000 Army troops and policemen have been deployed in surrounding states to prevent protesters from reaching the capital.
The tone of the government's resolve to curtail protest was set last Thursday by New Delhi Lt. Gov. Jagmohan Malhotra, who warned that anybody found endangering life or disturbing public order during the games could be shot by the security forces.
The warning followed threats by militant Sikh nationalists in the Punjab to disrupt the games if their demands for autonomy were not met. The Sikhs, who in the last six months have triggered riots that have left 44 persons dead and more than 200 injured, are demanding that the boundaries of three states be redrawn to give their sect sweeping powers.
The government's response was to seal off the approaches to the capital and arrest 600 members of the extremist Sikh party, the Akali Dal, in the Punjab, most of them in the Sikhs' holy city of Amritsar. Another 47,000 Sikhs in the Punjab had already submitted themselves to arrest in a passive resistance protest.
Since the start of the Asian Games, thousands of cars and trucks headed here have been stopped and searched at the Punjab's borders, and several vehicles containing hundreds of swords and kirpans -- the short, curved knives traditionally carried by Sikhs -- have been seized.
In the parliament area of downtown New Delhi, hundreds of helmeted police with bamboo shields and lathis--long hardwood staves used for crowd control--have maintained a daily vigil against demonstrations. It was here that six Sikh extremists were shot to death last month when a large crowd attempted to break through police barricades during a demonstration.
So far, however, the Akali activists have limited their protests to nightly marches in which about 100 members submit themselves to arrest.
Yesterday, police in the Punjab began arresting the top leadership of the Akali party, including four of the five members of a committee that had been negotiating with the central government, and Balwant Singh, a former finance minister of the Punjab state government, under preventive detention measures.
Police also have placed about 40 Afghan exiles under house arrest, apparently as a result of a minor scuffle at Nehru Stadium yesterday.
Monday night five Iranian nationals, including a member of the Iranian soccer team, were arrested in the Asian Games Village following a clash with Iranian students who oppose the regime of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. There have been several similar clashes among Iranians since the start of the games.