Monday, 30th October 2017

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AAP finds itself a bystander as rioting breaks out in Delhi

Having distanced itself from the protests, the AAP now has no leverage to control protests

By Pheroze L. Vincent in New Delhi
  • Published 25.02.20, 2:08 AM
  • Updated 25.02.20, 2:08 AM
  • 4 mins read
Brick-bats during the clashes between anti-CAA and pro-CAA groups at Jafrabad, New Delhi, on Monday. (PTI)

The limitations, if not perils, of the Aam Aadmi Party’s strategy of ignoring the protests against the new citizenship matrix to prevent polarisation were on full display as the Arvind Kejriwal government could do little when rioting broke out in northeast Delhi.

Although Delhi police do not report to the AAP government, the absence of the party’s leverage in the trouble spots was unmistakable. A series of tips offered by Congress leader Ajay Maken on what to do other than tweeting also served to underscore a perception that the AAP government had not applied its mind to tackling the crisis.

On Sunday, former AAP minister and now BJP leader Kapil Mishra led a group to oppose a rally from Chandbagh to Rajghat by anti-CAA protesters to mark a bandh by the Bhim Army. The rally had already been stopped by the police, and Mishra gave the women protesters a three-day ultimatum to clear the area, which have several sit-ins against the Citizenship Amendment Act.

Heavy stone-pelting took place and video footage showed a pro-CAA crowd unloading construction debris to use as brickbats. Amidst this, AAP’s local MLA Abdul Rehman issued a video appeal to the protesters not to block the road and to protest only on the footpaths.

An AAP source said: “Muslim MLAs were told by the party to tell the people to only sit on the pavement, not on the road. This angered the MLAs who said that their entire localities are out on the streets and are being attacked by goons with saffron flags. In such a situation, they cannot tell people to back off. But the party insisted they do this, and they have done so. The media narrative has been captured by the BJP and anything that we say will be misused to polarise further.”

Although the AAP opposed the CAA in Parliament, its leaders have stayed away from anti-CAA protests in Shaheen Bagh and other places — and chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had also appealed to the protesters not to cause any inconvenience to the public.

Having distanced itself from the protests, the AAP now has no leverage to control the protests.

“Majoritarianism is so deep that even those who contribute to the party complain to us if we are seen to be soft towards anti-CAA protesters. The AAP will have to project itself as a majority-friendly party. The BJP-ruled Centre has the police and we cannot really do anything to the goons. The political capital we have generated must be spent judiciously, and the way to tackle the BJP is to defeat them in the municipal polls in 2022. Until then, we have to lay low,” the source added.

A man brandishes a pistol during a clash in New Delhi on Monday.
A man brandishes a pistol during a clash in New Delhi on Monday. (PTI)

The AAP has tried to occupy the space of the main Hindu party — currently held by the BJP — with Kejriwal and other leaders projecting themselves as devotees of Lord Hanuman. Many saw this as a strategy for the Assembly polls but the strategy has continued even after the elections.

After the violence spiralled and spread on Monday, Kejriwal put out several tweets appealing of calm, offering condolences to the family of the slain head constable and urging the Centre to restore law and order. “Nobody should be allowed to orchestrate flagrations,” he tweeted.

Mishra, too, tweeted an appeal for peace and also put out several tweets suggesting that anti-CAA protesters were responsible for the violence.

Noor Ul Amin, a young professional who came to a protest outside the Delhi police headquarters on Ashoka Road later, told The Telegraph: “Peaceful protesters have been attacked by goons and there are videos showing police pelting stones along with Sanghi goons. Unfortunately, a policeman has also been killed. We are here not to block any road but just to remind the police that they are not doing their duty, and innocent people, including their officers, are being harmed by their inaction.”

Several other AAP leaders followed suit but none has condemned Mishra, nor has any minister visited the riot-stricken areas yet, where many Muslims are reportedly fleeing their homes.

Maken, a Congress leader and former Union minister, put out a series of tweets telling Kejriwal what to do.

“As a CM, please do not appear to be helpless. A few suggestions: 1) Immediately establish a helpline directly under you for any complaint of police inaction or that of violence — to be monitored and further passed on to the police + SDM (directly under the Delhi government.)

“2) Immediately call an all-party meeting, take suggestions and work across political parties to restore normalcy in troubled areas;

“3) Immediately form peace committees in all troubled areas, comprising of important social influencers from the same areas, including elected MLAs, councillors, DC of the district (directly under the Delhi government), local SHO & SDM.

“Make each minister of your cabinet in charge of such committees and ask them to hit the ground; “4) Immediately establish a hotline with the lieutenant governor and talk to him (LG) on hourly basis to take stock of situation; “5) Take a lead and don’t sit back blaming others. Being helpless would further erode a much needed credibility of our democratic institutions to protect violence against the innocent citizens.”

A source in the chief minister’s office said the immediate priority was to calm tempers and ensure the police re-established order. Kejriwal has also met lieutenant governor Anil Baijal, who supervises Delhi police.

Several student groups have called for a protest at the new police headquarters for inaction against Right-wing rioters and brutality against peaceful anti-CAA protesters.

Rahul Gandhi.
Rahul Gandhi. (PTI)

Rahul Gandhi seeks Amit Shah's resignation

New Delhi: The Congress on Monday questioned the “silence” of Union home minister Amit Shah on the violence in Delhi and sought his resignation.

Rahul Gandhi tweeted: “I urge the citizens of Delhi to show restraint, compassion and understanding no matter what the provocation.” PTI