It was a rare sight in Delhi Assembly on Wednesday when Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal read out names of the deceased in recent riots along with their religion alternatively as if he was trying to strike a balance of violence and console both communities one by one.
He was being criticised for not intervening in the days since the violence began. Finally, on Wednesday, he visited some of the stricken areas for the first time and read out a sadist and un-impressive speech in Assembly accusing “outsiders” and “political and anti-social elements” for the riots that rocked Delhi over past three days.
He said, “I want to show who faced losses from the riots. Everyone lost. More than 20 people have died. Veer Bhan died, he was a Hindu. Mohammad Mubarak died, he was a Muslim. Parvesh died, he was a Hindu. Zakir was a Muslim. Rahul Solanki was a Hindu, Mohammad Furqaan a Muslim and Rahul Thakur was a Hindu. Maut toh dono ki ho gayi – Hindu’o ki bhi ho gayi, Musalmano ki bhi ho gayi, aur policewalon ki bhi ho gayi (Hindus, Muslims, and policemen – all have died).”
This new avatar of AK is realpolitik sans culture, as can be seen in his statement given during PC: “National security should not be compromised with.”
The starking contrast did not go unnoticed as he opened his speech with the news of Melania Trump (introducing her as the wife of world’s “strongest” man Donald Trump) visiting Happiness classes in Delhi government-run schools and then he moved on to riots posing a final question to the house: “Which type of Delhi you want?” The house, filled with a majority of AAP MLA’s clapped in response.
Outside, the scene was entirely different. Kejriwal visited AAP stronghold Burari the same evening to pay homage to deceased Delhi Police official Ratan Lal. He was hounded by the locals and forced to leave the area amidst slogans like, “Kejriwal Go Back”, “Kejriwal Pakistan Jaao”! People who voted for AAP just three weeks back for a “happy” Delhi had now vehemently opposing and rejecting AAP’s politics and Kejriwal’s stance on the riots that took place amidst anti-CAA protests in North-East Delhi.
The question Kejriwal had posed inside the house was answered specifically on the same streets where he was used to sit-in a few years ago on the question of governance.
Early morning before he went to Assembly, a crowd gathered outside his residence on Civil Lines to protest his inaction. The call was given by students of Jamia and JNU who were active in anti-CAA protests across the capital city. This was the first instance in the last six years and three terms of AAP when protestors were tackled with water canons and dispersed. It was never expected of Arvind Kejriwal, at least!
His politics had come full circle! The rabble-rouser of Delhi had become a politician in the true sense but Alas! He has lost his clothes!
Press Conference and over
On Thursday evening when Kejriwal addressed media in a press conference for the first time since riots, he was categorical in saying that nobody involved in riots should be spared, be it from AAP. He was referring to Tahir Hussain on a question from media persons, an AAP leader accused of rioting and trending on twitter at the same time. Saying this he did not miss the usual rant, “Police humare paas nahin hai”. for which he used to criticise Sheila Dixit when Congress was in power.
This was the single excuse that has bailed out each and every member of the Aam Admi Party, be it a minister or an MLA, when approached by the toiling people during riots. Aatishi Marlena, Gopal Rai, Somnath Bharti, and others have been accused of not responding to phone calls during riots on Monday night.
It was on Tuesday evening that I called up Gopal Rai twice but he did not pick up the phone, neither called back. One lawyer who was active in anti-CAA protests called up MLA Aatishi Marlena on Monday night. She says, “she picked up the phone and said- this is a law and order problem aur Delhi police humare under mein nahin hai.”
The same sundry logic for which Kejriwal was hounded on the streets Wednesday evening was hailed as a “political tactics” by his supporters a month back when he had refused to join Shaheen Bagh anti-CAA protests and placed the onus on Union Home Minister Amit Shah to clear the roadblock. At that time too, Kejriwal could not sense the irony of his statement that could be read out of the text as follows: I would have cleared the roadblock if Delhi Police reported to me!
The missed call
If a riot is purely a question of law and order and if law and order rest on the police, then it should be asked from the Leader why he used to chant a filmy song in his rallies that read out as: “Insaan ka insaan se ho bhaichaara, yahi paigaam humaara!” Still on AK’s twitter account, we can find the same cultural message as the intro.
It is not long ago when Arvind Kejriwal sat on a dharna with his party men defying Section 144 in front of Rail Bhawan in Lutyen’s Delhi complaining non-cooperation by Delhi Police to his MLA Somnath Bharti in Khirki Extension raid case. It was amply clear that Delhi Police was facilitating rioters earlier this week and not acting against them, as stated in dozens of testimonies plus a letter by Rajya Sabha MP Naresh Gujral, who has exposed the failure of the Delhi police to assist riot victims.
Gujral has written a letter to Delhi Commissioner of Police with his personal experience on trying to get assistance for those being targeted.
Breaking: now MP Naresh Gujral exposes the failure of the Delhi police to assist riot victims.. writes letter to CP with his personal experience on trying to get assistance for those being targeted. @IndiaToday pic.twitter.com/z66Lc9WZq0
— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) February 27, 2020
If this was indeed the case, the root cause of governance glitch in Delhi remained the same as in 2014 but the response and effect were entirely opposite. Kejriwal did not utter a word against Delhi Police, let alone sitting on a dharna as he used to perform regularly in his initial days.
This new avatar of AK is realpolitik sans culture, as can be seen in his statement given during PC: “National security should not be compromised with.” This is the same language that former PM Manmohan Singh spoke of in DGP’s conference of LWE (left-wing extremism) affected states. This is the same rhetoric that we are used to hearing from PM Narendra Modi on each and every issue.
Are communal riots an issue of national security? Is it not a cultural and social issue that needs to be addressed socially and culturally? What Mahatma Gandhi did in Noakhali and elsewhere is a historical example of dealing with riots and reaching out to the affected. AK need not follow Gandhi necessarily but was at least expected to go into crisis areas and lend a helping hand to victims. He could not do that because he had nothing to do with this sort of “politics”.
That is why he aptly said in his press conference, “dange ke saath rajneeti nahi honi chahiye”.
Politics of distancing?
First, he avoided Shaheen Bagh as he feared being branded as tukde tukde gang (Maneesh Sisodia said this in an interview). He distanced himself from an iconic protest to show his Hindu voters that he has nothing to do with the anti-CAA protests. Then he distanced himself from the communal fire that engulfed around 50 lives, destroyed homes, shops and left his “aam admi” in a lurch: all this in a matter of just 48 hours! Now he is up to relief measures announcing compensation etc for riot-affected people.
The vacuum that the elected government of Delhi left during 48 hours on Monday and Tuesday was filled by none other than the Ajit Doval. Irony cannot be starker than this: A National Security Advisor taking on the job of a political communicator in an electoral democracy, assuring people on the streets: “Mashallah! Sab Theek Ho jayega!”
Historian Amaresh Mishra, who stood against Narendra Modi in 2019 Loksabha Elections from Varanasi independently and almost unnoticed, terms this phenomenon as “deep state hand in Delhi genocide 2020”!
A Wikipedia entry on “deep state” says, ” A deep state (from Turkish: derin devlet), also known as a state within a state, is a form of clandestine government made up of hidden or covert networks of power operating independently of a state’s political leadership, in pursuit of their own agenda and goals.”
The vacuum created in an electoral democracy by the elected government of Delhi and filled instantly by NSA Doval is a familiar scenario resembling Kashmir dated August 2019, when all the elected peoples’ representatives were jailed after the abrogation of Article 370. Doval was on the streets of Srinagar twice last year performing the job of a political communicator. That was a state within a state phenomenon unfolding in the newly formed Union Territory.
Jammu and Kashmir was a full-fledged state bound to New Delhi by Article 370 thus making space for deep state actors. Delhi is still not a full-fledged state. This character itself creates a space for the deep state to operate here and co-opt those who have a political interest in the territory. The Aam Aadmi Party has faced the heat in its initial couple of years ruling over Delhi but gradually things got settled and it distanced itself from those issues that involved contentious things like Delhi Police, law and order, etc.
This overt distancing strategy was basically coming close to the covert and clandestine power networks, that facilitated its third win in Delhi.
What seemed to us as a politics of distancing proved out to be a politics of convenience. This political convenience was basically getting threatened by an eruption of sudden violence and riot last Monday. Arvind Kejriwal maintained a status quo by not responding or reacting to reality but this time the reality was so loud that he got exposed in the process.
The game is not yet over. Shaheen Bagh is still in place. Hauz Rani and many such protest sites are alive and kicking. This “distancing policy” will haunt AAP and Kejriwal persuading him to flip-flop his stance on CAA. If riots break again and expand to the whole of Delhi, then the elected government of Delhi will be obliged to speak up.
Speaking up would effect a disconnect from the clandestine networks of power. Silence may ultimately lead Delhi to a situation like Kashmir. It would be no exaggeration that it is quite possible that the central government recommends the President’s rule in the capital on the excuse of law and order.
To sum up, the “apolitical” AK is now caught between the Devil and the Deep Sea! His social base is fast eroding. His political investment is caught up in the law of diminishing returns. He had lost his cultural ground way back. AAP’s politics of desertion is now in direct conflict with the politics of assertion.
Be it Hindu assertion or that of Muslim, Kejriwal is the one to lose both ways. This will not be a political loss. This is more of a moral loss.
A moral loss for an “apolitical” party.
Abhishek Srivastava is the Executive Editor of Mediavigil.com. Views are personal.