A mobile toilet with mirror and wash basin for the protesters; (right) commuters come out of the Rajiv Chowk Metro station and walk to their destinations elsewhere as four stations were shut till 8pm on Tuesday because of the AAP dharna. Pictures by Rajesh Kumar and Yasir Iqbal
New Delhi, Jan. 21: Piping hot khichdi with cauliflower curry, puri with aloo sabzi and endless cups of tea — the goodies on the chief minister’s dharna menu may well have been packed into a Sunday picnic basket.
The ambience was perfect — chilly weather, unlimited supply of samosas and kachoris handed out by volunteers to anyone in the vicinity save the cops, golgappa stalls, blankets to snuggle under, umbrellas, tents and even toilets-on-wheels sent by the New Delhi Municipal Council. A maroon Toyota Qualis loaded with essentials for a comfortable picnic stood nearby.
Only, the aam aadmi that had business or chores apart from pressing for the suspension of five policemen were stranded. They had to bear the brunt of the traffic disruption caused by the Aam Aadmi Party’s day out and the consequent shutdown of four Metro stations.
Binu Rawat, 17, skipped school to be a part of the spectacle. She ran towards the dharna site and did a high-five with her friend Chanchal Kashyap, 22, just before the crowd broke a barricade, injuring supporters and cops.
“We broke the barricade. Now, I am here. It will be fun. We will stay here for 20 days, if required,” Binu said. Later, when the dharna was called off, she said she was “disappointed”.
Another student, Sonam Mishra, too missed school. Not out of choice but because the Central Secretariat Metro station was shut for the second day.
“I couldn’t go to school today as my parents didn’t want me to take a chance. Today, we were supposed to be rehearsing for our Republic Day programme. I don’t like this chief minister,” said Sonam, as she played outside her Ghaziabad home. She goes to a south Delhi school.
In the morning, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal ate home-made parathas brought by his wife. One of his colleagues had poha.
Around 400 people, mostly AAP members and volunteers, lounged around at the dharna site, laughing, chatting and sipping tea. Some took a break from protests in the afternoon and had a quick nap.
Several people were seen standing near Metro stations in and around central Delhi. Autos refused to run as many arterial roads were blocked. The autos that plied charged hefty fares.
“If Kejriwal claims to stand for the aam aadmi, he should have known what his dharna would mean for the aam aadmi. He should be ashamed of what he has done. Old people have walked for several kilometres, mothers with young children have been stranded,” said Rakesh, a street vendor near Patel Chowk, one of the stations shut down for most of the last two days.
Varsha Sahi, sitting on the Patel Chowk station steps with daughter Suhana for almost three hours, said: “I don’t know what to do. My daughter is just four and the food I got for her is already finished. I had hoped to reach my destination by lunch, so I didn’t carry anything extra.
“For this dharna, my husband will also miss a day’s pay because he has to come and get us. I don’t know how he will come because people are telling me all roads are blocked. I voted for AAP and I regret it.”
Suhana added: “I will never vote for Kejriwal uncle. Why did you vote for him?”