The violence in Northeast Delhi, which began on Sunday evening, continued on Tuesday and the death toll climbed to seven. Dozens of people were injured on Monday and Tuesday in clashes between thousands of people protesting in favour of and against the divisive Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
Reuters reporters saw multiple vehicles set on fire and metal barricades torn down. Police fired tear gas shells and also resorted to lathicharges as clashes broke out at Jaffrabad, Maujpur, Chandbagh, Khureji Khas and Bhajanpura, according to PTI.
Reuters also reported that outnumbered policemen were largely standing by as violent CAA supporters damaged property and wreaked havoc.
The area has been tense since Sunday, when Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Kapil Mishra led a rally in support of the CAA in Maujpur area, near Jaffrabad, and gave a three-day ultimatum to the Delhi Police to clear anti-CAA protesters from the area.
As the situation remains tense on the ground, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s response has received a lot of criticism.
On Tuesday, he tweeted about US First Lady Melania Trump’s visit to Delhi schools to attend the ‘Happiness Class’ which the AAP government has instituted. U.S. President Donald Trump and Melania are on a two-day trip to India.
″@FLOTUS will attend happiness class in our school today. Great day for our teachers, students and Delhiites. For centuries, India has taught spirituality to the world. Am happy that she will take back the msg of happiness from our school,” Kejriwal tweeted in the morning.
He was immediately called out by Twitter users, who asked why he was not out on the streets trying to control the situation.
Kejriwal visited Gandhi’s memorial in Rajghat on Tuesday and said violence will not benefit anyone. He called for restoration of peace in the national capital .
“Six civilians and one policemen have died. Violence will not benefit anyone. Mahatma Gandhi was a worshiper of non-violence, we prayed for restoration of peace in Delhi,” he said after the visit, according to PTI.
Kejriwal also met those injured in the violence and being treated at GTB Hospital and Max Hospital.
The Chief Minister had addressed a press conference earlier in the day and urged people to refrain from indulging in violence. “There have been complaints that number of policemen are not enough and police is not able to take action without orders from above. I will discuss it with the Home minister,” he told reporters, according to PTI.
Apart from this, the Chief Minister said he has also asked all hospital authorities to provide necessary help to victims and fire department has also been asked to provide immediate help to affected areas.
He said there is a need to seal borders to prevent outsiders from coming and indulging in violence.
Some people said his response should have come much earlier.
The Delhi Police does not report to the AAP government, but journalist Nikhil Wagle said AAP “leaders and workers can help and console victims”.
When the clashes broke out on Tuesday, Kejriwal urged the Lieutenant Governor and the Home Minister Amit Shah “to ensure peace and harmony is maintained”. Several Twitter users urged him then to stop tweeting and get out on the streets (see here and here)
Kejriwal was also reminded of his tweet in 2013 about late former Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit.
AAP leaders have also maintained a cautious distance from the protests at Shaheen Bagh, which has entered its third month now. After being re-elected as the Chief Minister earlier this month, Kejriwal met Shah but the two leaders did not discuss Shaheen Bagh.
Women protesting at Shaheen Bagh have expressed displeasure at how Kejriwal and Okhla MLA Amanatullah Khan have not met them till now. Talking to The Print, one of the protesters said, “We voted Amanatullah Khan to power, we supported him, but now after the polls are over, he is nowhere to be seen. We need the local MLA to support us.”
Another said that Kejriwal can’t just keep sitting as Chief Minister, “it’s his moral duty to find a solution to our problems”.
Having distanced itself from the protests, the AAP now has no leverage to control the protests, Pheroze L. Vincent wrote in The Telegraph.
(With PTI inputs)