Calling himself an anarchist, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal Monday staged a dramatic sit-in with his cabinet ministers and around 1,000 vocal supporters in the heart of the city seeking action against five police officers his government holds guilty.
“Yes, I am an anarchist,” thundered the 45-year-old Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader over a loud hailer as he staged a demonstration unprecedented for a chief minister, demanding that Delhi Police be placed under his control.
Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, who supervises Delhi Police, rejected the demand, saying police could not be put under the city government as Delhi was the national capital. He also gently asked Kejriwal to call off his protest keeping in mind the stature of the chief minister’s office.
Shinde also announced that Delhi’s Lt Governor Najeeb Jung had ordered a judicial inquiry into the conduct of three Station House Officers of three police stations and two assistant commissioners of police.
An angry Kejriwal rejected Shinde’s plea. He said the police officers should be suspended during the inquiry, and added that he was prepared to extend his street protest to 10 long days.
After he was prevented from reaching Shinde’s office in the morning, the chief minister — an activist-turned-politician who took office Dec 28 — and his ministers got off their cars and staged the sit-in near the Rail Bhavan, not far from parliament.
In no time, after he had addressed the supporters, Kejriwal and his ministers started official work at the protest site – studying and signing files as bewildered policemen looked on.
The chief minister earlier urged people and AAP activists to reach the city centre in large numbers.
A large number of party supporters responded to the call but were prevented from reaching the protest site that had been ringed by thousands of police and paramilitary personnel.
Kejriwal extended the invitation to “honest policemen” too, provided they took leave, prompting denunciations from both the Congress, which props up his government, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
By later afternoon, there were scuffles between the AAP supporters and police personnel, who wanted Kejriwal and his men to move to Jantar Mantar area, where demonstrations normally take place.
Police accused the AAP of violating orders banning the assembly of four or more people in the heart of Delhi.
The face-off between Delhi Police and the three-week-old Delhi government erupted after Delhi’s Law Minister Somnath Bharti accused some officers of not taking action against an alleged sex-and-drug racket involving some Ugandans. Police refused to enter the women’s house without a warrant.
The issue escalated into a near diplomatic row after a group of Ugandans accused Bharti and AAP volunteers of misbehaviour. The minister also came under widespread criticism. The Indian government promised African envoys that no African would be harassed.
Kejriwal vehemently defended Bhrati. He also sought the suspension of policemen who allegedly refused to arrest members of a family accused of burning their daughter-in-law and an officer in charge of an area where a Danish woman was raped.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari charged Kejriwal and his ministers with “constitutional anarchy” and “gimmickry”.
Kejriwal would have none of it.
“I have come prepared for 10 days to protest. If there is any chaos during the Republic Day, then the central government will have to be blamed,” he told supporters.
“I had earlier tweeted asking people not to join us for the protest. Now I am calling all of you to join us in the cause.”
The unprecedented protest forced Delhi Metro to shut four major stations, causing inconvenience to thousands of commuters.
The Patel Chowk, Central Secretariat, Udyog Bhawan and Race Course stations were closed at 9 a.m. and were to open at 1 p.m. But the Metro later said the stations would remain closed until further orders.