|Arvind Kejriwal at Jantar Mantar to pay homage to Nido Tania on Tuesday. Picture by Rajesh Kumar
New Delhi, Feb. 4: Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal today got a taste of his own medicine from Northeasterners protesting the attack on a student who died in the capital.
Having maintained silence on the suspected racist roots of the attack on Nido Tania, Kejriwal ran into several questions no sooner than he arrived at Jantar Mantar this afternoon.
“Mr Kejriwal, you have come four days late,” said an angry Binalakshmi Nepram, an activist, as Kejriwal and Delhi education minister Manish Sisodia stepped on stage.
Nepram asked the students who had gathered at the site: “Do you wish that he was here on the first day?”
“Yes, yes,” chorused the students whose strength surpassed yesterday’s gathering for Rahul Gandhi.
It was an unfamiliar stage for Kejriwal who has been using crowd power to his advantage to torment the Congress as well as the BJP on a host of issues.
Sensing the combative mood of protesters, Kejriwal apologised for the delay. “I have come four days late and I apologise for that,” said Kejriwal, adding that he remained a common man before announcing measures like inclusion of Northeastern topics in textbooks of the Delhi government.
The protesters told the chief minister that if an attack recurred, he should be with the students on the first day if he wanted them to feel they are also Indians.
Nepram used the opportunity to convey to him that the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act was also a racist legislation that treated young people from the Northeast as terrorists.
The students warned that theirs was not a one-day “road show” and all of them would march to Parliament on Thursday to demand justice.
Kejriwal was asked to list three steps he would take in view of the attack on Tania. The chief minister said a magisterial inquiry would be ordered into the incident, the history of the Northeast would be included in Delhi school textbooks and pressure would be mounted for setting up a committee. The last step was already taken by the Union home ministry today.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader finally connected with the protesters on a common adversary: Delhi police. The Delhi government recommended a magisterial inquiry because the police were “one of the accused parties” and could not have carried out an impartial probe, he said.
“I am unhappy that the FIR was lodged after two days…. Delhi police have become completely corrupt,” said Kejriwal, drawing some admiring response from the protesters.
The AAP has been virtually on a warpath against Delhi police and Kejriwal had protested outside Parliament days ahead of the Republic Day demanding the suspension of some officers.
Some protesters smelt politics soon after Kejriwal left, the cameras in tow. Student leader Duyu Tabio, from Arunachal Pradesh, shouted after Kejriwal that theirs was not a platform either for Rahul Gandhi or Arvind Kejriwal.
An animated Tabio said that when Kejriwal came, the media followed and when Rahul reached last evening, “some sycophants and chamchas were here”.
“We don’t want any politicians here. They make political capital out of it. So anyone comes here, just boo them for I cannot guarantee you that your face will not be the next one on this poster,” Tabio told the students.
Former Arunachal Pradesh governor and retired general J.J. Singh also spoke to the gathering today. Singh will meet Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde tomorrow.
Unlike Rahul and Kejriwal, BJP leader Narendra Modi will not go to Jantar Mantar: a delegation of students will call on the Gujarat chief minister at Gujarat Bhavan in the capital on Wednesday evening.