Soon after being re-elected as the Chief Minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal is battling public anger over his government’s sparse efforts to control the riots in Northeast Delhi and delayed response to the prevailing violence.
The death toll has climbed to 20 in the violence that began on Sunday evening after BJP leader Kapil Mishra led a rally in support of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in the Maujpur area, near Jaffrabad. Chand Bagh, Bhajanpura, Gokulpuri, Maujpur, Kardampuri and Jaffrabad are among the areas which have witnessed violent clashes.
After two days of inaction, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) seems to have gone into damage control mode. A report in The Telegraph says that AAP’s assessment that playing down the violence would lead to a retreat by rioters has misfired. A section of the party leadership has now demanded a more visible approach to counter rioters, the report said, but added that AAP’s “strategists” have asked them to hold back.
On Wednesday, a day after Kejriwal said he had held a “positive” meeting with Amit Shah, the party launched an attack on the Home Minister. Addressing a press conference on Wednesday, AAP leader Sanjay Singh asked why Shah has not appealed for peace till now. “Does Amit Shah have no responsibility?” he asked.
He also asked why the army had not been called in yet. “If Amit Shah and his police are not able to control the riots, why is Amit Shah not calling the army? Army should immediately be sent to Delhi,” Singh said.
This seemed to be the playbook followed by other AAP leaders as well. Kejriwal also said that the situation in Delhi is alarming and the police, despite efforts, has been unable to control the situation. He called for the army to be sent and curfew to be imposed in the affected areas.
But just a day ago, the chief minister had said that “the police was doing their bit”.
As the violence escalated on Tuesday, AAP leader Atishi had also asked why the army was not being called in. The Indian Express said that the Delhi government could itself answer that question, explaining that for the army to be called in, a formal request could be made by the District Magistrate of the affected area. “In Delhi, the revenue department, and hence the District Magistrate, is under the Delhi government,” it added.
AAP leader and Seelampur MLA Abdul Rehman told HuffPost India over the phone that the Delhi government was doing everything it could. “We have alerted the hospitals and the Chief Minister met Amit Shah and the L-G, we are trying our best so peace is restored in Delhi.” But when asked about the anti-CAA protesters in Jaffrabad who have now reportedly shifted to Seelampur, his constituency, Rehman said, “I don’t know” and hung up.
Why is AAP facing public anger?
The AAP government has been accused of focusing on photo opportunities and not taking concrete steps to defuse the situation or go to the affected areas. After receiving flak for tweeting about First Lady Melania Trump’s visit to government schools to attend a Happiness Class, the Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia on Tuesday met those injured in the violence and admitted at GTB hospital in Shahdara and Max hospital in Patparganj.
“I met the people injured in the violence, including those with bullet injuries. I have instructed that special care be given for the injured, more beds arranged, more doctors roped in and all possible measures are taken to save the lives of the victims. Treating the injured is not an issue,” Kejriwal said, according to PTI.
Since Monday, the AAP government’s response to the rising tensions in Northeast Delhi has been tepid at best. On Monday, Kejriwal urged the Lieutenant Governor and Shah “to ensure peace and harmony is maintained”.
On Tuesday, he met his party MLAs and officials at his residence to discuss the situation in the city. He attended a meeting with Shah, Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal, the Delhi police commissioner and leaders of different political parties.
The Chief Minister said that hospital authorities in the affected area have been instructed to provided necessary help to the victims and the Fire Department has been instructed to coordinate with the police to reach the affected areas in time.
He also requested that proper security be maintained at the borders of the city so that no outsiders can enter Delhi to create trouble.
Later in the day, he visited Gandhi’s memorial in Rajghat and called for restoration of peace in Delhi. Twitter users asked him why he went to Rajghat instead of the violence-affected areas.
Around midnight, a crowd comprising mainly students gathered outside the Chief Minister’s residence to demand his action against the violence in Northeast Delhi. The call to gherao the residence post midnight was given by Jamia Coordination Committee, according to PTI.
The students demanded to meet Kejriwal and submit a charter of demands over the violence, according to NDTV. But the police used water cannons to disperse the crowd and the students, the report added, alleging that they were detained by the police and taken to nearby Civil Lines police station.
Several people asked why the Chief Minister did not meet the students.
(With PTI inputs)