|FILES TO GO THROUGH...
|(top) Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and cabinet colleague Manish Sisodia vet files at the dharna site near Rail Bhavan on Monday as part of a picket-and-govern policy. Rajender Kumar, IAS officer and principal secretary to the chief minister, brought the files to Kejriwal. Education minister Sisodia’s secretary came with half-a-dozen files. At 5.30pm on Monday, Kejriwal was supposed to attend a meeting of the National Capital Region Planning Board. But he did not take the risk of leaving the dharna site. (Below) At night, Kejriwal went under a quilt and slept on the road. The temperature at the fog-enveloped site at 1am on Tuesday was 11°C. (PTI pictures)
|...BEFORE I SLEEP
New Delhi, Jan. 20: Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal today squatted beside Parliament, cleared files, heralded the “real” Republic Day, virtually asked police to revolt, appealed to people to join him tomorrow and bedded down on the road at night.
The chief minister also proudly proclaimed that if all these constituted anarchy, he was indeed an “anarchist”.
“The Republic Day parade cannot be celebrated by taking out tableaux. What is the point of celebrating Republic Day when women are being raped in Delhi? Republic Day will begin today. We will all sit here and fight for freedom,” Kejriwal said, relaying his message over a battery-operated speaker.
“I am being termed an anarchist. I accept I am an anarchist. But there is anarchy in every home in this country. Today I have come to spread anarchy in Shinde’s (Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde) house,” he said, cheered on by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) volunteers.
Kejriwal and his entourage are sitting in a small park housing the statue of freedom fighter Govind Ballabh Pant, near Rail Bhavan, where he was stopped while heading to the Union home ministry in North Block.
The chief minister is staging the protest to press his demand to suspend five police officers and the transfer of control of Delhi police to the state government. Delhi police are now under the administrative charge of the Union home ministry.
Shinde, who met the Prime Minister in the evening, has turned down both demands. A retired judge is probing the incidents in which two AAP groups asked the police to raid private homes to bust alleged drug-and-sex rackets and register a dowry torture case. The Centre has said action can be taken only on the basis of the probe report.
Asked whether the protest was indefinite, the chief minister said: “I have come here prepared with clothes for 10 days. If needed, I will get more clothes from my house.”
Guarded by two volunteers and fortified by several blankets brought in by supporters, Kejriwal was sleeping on the road near three parked cars around midnight.
Kejriwal, who had yesterday confined the agitation to himself and his MLAs, changed tack tonight. “For the sake of the security of the people of Delhi, Kejriwal will spend the entire night on the road in the cold. All friends, please come to Rail Bhavan at 9am tomorrow to protest against the dictatorship of the police,” said a text message being sent out by AAP supporters.
Most of the 1,000-strong protesters at the venue today had come from outside Delhi, largely from Haryana. AAP supporters said the barricades prevented Delhiites from reaching the site later in the day.
Kejriwal yesterday had chosen to show concern for the Republic Day celebrations less than a week away — one of the reasons he had initially asked his supporters not to join him.
Later, he justified his change of stand, saying Republic Day celebrations were meaningless when common people and women were unsafe.
“I could not sleep last night. I thought, ‘of what use is this Republic Day celebration when the people are suffering?’ Now I call upon all the people who feel harassed by the police to come and join the protest. It is for your safety and security,” the chief minister said.
“If any constitutional crisis takes place because of Republic Day, the central government would be responsible,” he added.
Kejriwal called upon “honest” policemen to join the protest. He said all policemen were not corrupt, urging them to take leave, remove their uniforms and join the protest. “Come and join. This country is calling you,” he urged the police.
The AAP leader appeared determined to confront the UPA government and precipitate a crisis, hoping the Congress would cite his “anarchist” role to withdraw its outside support to his 22-day-old government. So far, the Congress has not shown such an inclination.
Kejriwal appeared to use the protest to reach out to the people across the country with the summer general election in mind. He has said that if needed, he could contest the general election.
“Desh ki janata dekh rahi hai. Congress ko Parliament mein maja chakhayenge (The people of the country are watching. We will teach a lesson to the Congress in Parliament),” Kejriwal declared.
Senior AAP leaders defended Kejriwal’s “anarchy” and felt the tactics were in line with the ideals on which the party was founded. “We had come to break the system. Not to accept it and sit quiet and govern,” said a senior AAP leader. The leaders said that their campaign for the Lok Sabha elections had been kicked off by the dharna.
Party ideologue and chief spokesperson Yogendra Yadav said: “The big question is that should the Delhi police not be answerable to the people of Delhi and to the elected government.”