Delhi violence: Congress says deliberate inaction, set to meet President today

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Congress president Sonia Gandhi said it was “rather shocking” that the top leadership of the central and Delhi governments were silent, and questioned the whereabouts of Shah and Kejriwal since Sunday. (Express photo: Anil Sharma)

Alleging a “well planned conspiracy” behind the violence in Delhi, the Congress on Wednesday demanded the resignation of Home Minister Amit Shah, holding him responsible for “a colossal failure of duty”. It said the Delhi government was “equally responsible” for “not activating the administration to reach out to the people to maintain peace and harmony”.

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While party leaders admitted that the Delhi violence was communal, they said the seeds of the unrest were sown by the BJP’s decision to push the “discriminatory” citizenship law. They said the protests, which started in mid-December, have claimed about 50 lives across the country.

Referring to incidents of lynching in the Narendra Modi-led government’s first term, Congress leaders said the violence in the second term, even as the government is yet to complete a year in office, has been on a different scale, triggered by the BJP’s political moves.

Party sources said an emergency meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) was convened to make a strong statement against the BJP’s “polarising politics”, in the wake of the violence in Delhi.

Addressing a press conference after the CWC meeting, party chief Sonia Gandhi said: “The deliberate inaction of the central and state governments in the last 72 hours has resulted in 20 lives being lost so far... It is the collective failure of the two governments that has resulted in a great tragedy in the capital city.”

By evening, the toll had climbed to 27.

Sonia said it was “rather shocking” that the top leadership of the central and Delhi governments were silent, and questioned the whereabouts of Shah and Kejriwal since Sunday.

“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 Sunday night, when there were clear indications that violence would break out (and) why were additional security forces not called immediately when it was clear that the situation was beyond the control of the Delhi Police,” she said.

“(A B) Vajpayeeji, whenever there was a crisis of any kind, whether in Kashmir or in any part of the country, the first thing he used to do... he used to himself call all party leaders and he himself, on many occasions, actually took those meetings. But unfortunately and sadly, we have to say that ever since the Modi government has come, since 2014... no such meeting has ever been called. The only one was when the Home Minister called a meeting just now, and they only called the Delhi representatives, not an all-party meeting. It is a sad fact, but it is the truth,” said Sonia.

Reading from the CWC resolution, Sonia said the “Chief Minister of Delhi must be visible in the affected areas and in constant communication with the people.”

Targeting the BJP, she said: “Several leaders of the BJP (had) made inflammatory statements clearly intended to create an atmosphere of fear and hate”.

While Sonia did take any names, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra later said, “what BJP leader Kapil Mishra has said is shameful and the government not doing anything is even more shameful.” Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi did not attend the CWC meeting since he was abroad.

The Congress earlier planned to march from the AICC headquarters to Rashtrapati Bhavan to meet President Ram Nath Kovind and hand him a memorandum. But it later said “the President of India communicated to Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad that he is unavailable today and has given us time for tomorrow.” Senior party leaders are scheduled to meet the President on Thursday.

“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’,” the CWC said in its resolution.

“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, and calls upon the Home Minister to tender his resignation immediately. 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 said.

The CWC said “adequate security forces must be deployed immediately to bring the situation under control”. Sources said some CWC members felt the party should demand deployment of the Army, but many felt the party should be cautious when it comes to the Army.

Asked why the CWC had not demanded deployment of the Army, Sonia said: “We have in our resolution mentioned precisely that... the need of paramilitary forces. And the first step is paramilitary.”

The Congress also demanded formation of peace committees in every mohalla, consisting of members of all communities, and said senior civil servants must be deployed in each district to take charge of the administration and ensure that the administrative machinery responds to the evolving situation.

The party also held a peace march, led by Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, from the AICC headquarters to Gandhi Smriti.