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Delhi violence: Sonia speaks, Modi tweets

Amit Shah should resign immediately: Congress chief

By Sanjay K. Jha in New Delhi
  • Published 27.02.20, 2:29 AM
  • Updated 27.02.20, 2:29 AM
  • 3 mins read
Sonia Gandhi at the news conference in New Delhi on Wednesday (PTI photo)

Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday said Amit Shah should resign immediately, holding a rare media conference to assert that what has happened in Delhi is “a colossal failure of duty” for which the “entire responsibility” rests with the Centre, and particularly the home minister.

“Where was the home minister and what was he doing since last Sunday?” asked Sonia, addressing the media after an emergency Congress Working Committee meeting.

She described as “shocking” the silence of the top leadership of the government on the mindless violence in Delhi.

Minutes later, the Prime Minister issued a tweet: “Had an extensive review on the situation prevailing in various parts of Delhi. Police and other agencies are working on the ground to ensure peace and normalcy.”

The Prime Minister also issued an appeal for peace and harmony, three days after the rioting started, prompting Twitter users to comment that one press conference had done what horrific reports of riots and the tears of people who lost loved ones could not do: move Narendra Modi to speak.

Sonia said: “After reviewing the situation, the CWC is of the firm opinion that what has happened in Delhi is a colossal failure of duty for which the entire responsibility must be borne by the central government and particularly the home minister. We call upon the home minister to tender his resignation immediately.”

The Congress president asked several questions: “Where was the chief minister of Delhi? What were the reports given by the intelligence agencies in the days immediately after the conclusion of the Delhi elections and leading up to today? What was the strength of the police force deployed on the night of Sunday when there were clear indications that violence will break out? Why were additional security forces not called immediately when it was clear that the situation was beyond the control of the Delhi police?”

The party later took out a peace march, led by senior leaders including general secretary Priyanka Gandhi. Their request for permission to march to the home minister’s residence was rejected by Delhi police. Priyanka wanted to go to 30 January Lane, the spot where a burst of hate had killed Mahatma Gandhi 72 years ago, but was stopped at a distance on Janpath Road.

Priyanka sat on the way with other Congress leaders and hundreds of workers who shouted slogans in favour of communal amity. While one placard said, “Gandhi ke raste, aman ke waaste” (On Gandhi’s path for peace), another read, “Aaj hamara ek hi naara, nahin batey samaj hamaara” (Today our slogan is only this: Our society must not split).

The Congress sought time from President Ram Nath Kovind to submit a memorandum but was asked to come on Thursday.

The CWC passed a resolution that said: “The tragic events since last Sunday have a history, design and pattern. It was evident even during the Delhi elections. Several leaders of the BJP made inflammatory statements clearly intended to create an atmosphere of fear and hate. The last of these statements was made on Sunday, when a BJP leader gave an ultimatum of three days to the Delhi police and warned that “after three days don’t tell us anything’.”

It added: “The deliberate inaction of the central and state governments in the last 72 hours has resulted in 20 lives being been lost so far, including a head constable, and hundreds are in hospital, many with gunshot injuries including a journalist. Violence continues unabated on the streets of northeast Delhi. The chief minister and the Delhi government are equally responsible for not activating the administration to reach out to the people to maintain peace and harmony. It is the collective failure of the two governments that has resulted in a great tragedy in the capital city which threatens to become worse by the day.”

Describing the silence of top leadership as “shocking,” Sonia said: “Yes, it was expected of the top leadership of both the central government and Delhi government to speak up. Though I have seen on social media some comments, but formally nobody has come out with a positive message.”

Even as violence wracked Delhi, the Prime Minister had been tweeting videos of celebrations with US President Donald Trump.

In response to a question about the government’s decision to not consult all parties, Sonia said: “In the past even during Vajpayee government, Vajpayee Ji, whenever there was a crisis of any kind, whether in Kashmir or any other part of the country, the first thing he used to do is call leaders of all parties himself. On many occasions he actually took those meetings. But unfortunately and sadly, we have to say that ever since the Modi government has come in, since 2014, as far as I know, no such meeting has ever been called. The only one was recently when the home minister just now called a meeting and I think he called only the Delhi representatives, not an all-party meeting. It is a sad fact but it is the truth.”