Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has finally asked Union home minister Amit Shah to call in the army — after three days of appealing for peace.
Kejriwal told the Delhi Assembly on Wednesday: “I had requested the home minister this morning and now, through this House, I would like to appeal again to him that if necessary, the army should be called in to control the situation in the city. Curfew in the violence-affected areas should also be imposed at the earliest to normalise the situation. On behalf of all the parties and the House, I would like to assure the people of Delhi that there will be no dearth of effort of any kind from our side.”
Powers of calling in the army in Delhi are vested with assistant commissioners of police. They also have the powers of special executive magistrates under the Delhi Police Act, 1978. So far, Kejriwal had refrained from calling the army over fears of escalating the situation that may have polarised society further on communal lines.
Delhi BJP spokesperson Praveen Shankar Kapoor called Kejriwal’s request “a provocative statement meant to create terror and confusion in minds of citizens”.
Kejriwal read out names of Hindu and Muslim victims of the riots in the House, adding that “in the last two to three days, we all tried to do what we could. I was awake the entire previous night, working with my colleagues to extend as much support as possible to those affected. We tried to attend as many calls as possible. We tried to evacuate many of the stranded families with the help of the police. The police also helped as many times as they could in the last two-three days, but many times they had inadequate strength.”
The chief minister announced Rs 1 crore as compensation for the family of the slain head constable and a job for his kin, in addition to the Centre’s compensation of a crore. Kin of others who lost their lives are expected to get Rs. 2 lakhs per family, and those seriously injured will get half a lakh each.
Kejriwal added: “I understand that the police tried their best to handle the situation, but the low strength of the police could not control the soaring atmosphere. Some policemen were saying that there were no orders from above and hence, they could not act to diffuse the situation. However, many videos are also going viral, somewhere in which some policemen were helping the miscreants. If there are such people, they should be investigated. I met with the BJP and AAP MLAs yesterday. Most of the MLAs were on the ground. I heard that riots were stopped because of the efforts of legislators and volunteers at many places.”
After the session on Wednesday, Kejriwal toured the riot-hit areas. The HC earlier on Wednesday had ordered highest constitutional functionaries to visit affected areas and meet people there. The party has so far refrained from blaming the BJP for the riots.
In the House, AAP MLA Dilip Pandey demanded the arrest of BJP leader Kapil Mishra for his incendiary speech just before the riots broke out on Sunday.
AAP MP Sanjay Singh also told reporters: “Whereas on the one hand, the home minister called an all-party meeting on the situation, Kapil Mishra, on the other hand, is inciting violence. BJP’s Laxmi Nagar MLA Abhay Verma was witnessed shouting inflammatory slogans yesterday to incite violence. A member of the women wing of the BJP has written on her social media that the people of Delhi have had to pay a heavy price for free electricity and water. Is this what the BJP wants to represent? Should such language be used by the party?”
Singh later led a large peace march in East Delhi’s Gandhi Nagar, a place close to the riot affected areas. The new zeal from AAP came a day after several women activists met Kejriwal, and students protested outside his home on Tuesday night, before being water cannoned.