A supporter of Aam Aadmi Party flutters the national flag as Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal (centre) takes part in a protest in New Delhi yesterday.
New Delhi: As Delhi’s combative Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his cabinet sat in protest in the heart of the city, over the alleged inaction of Delhi Police, the “aam aadmi” (common man) bore the brunt yesterday.
Four metro stations were shut from 9am and major arterial roads were blocked in central Delhi, in a bid to foil a mass protest called by the Aam Aadmi Party. Commuters had a harrowing time.
“It is a Monday, most people have to get to office. We are not going to accept such political tactics. We have elected the chief minister to address and solve our woes, not to add to them,” said 57-year-old housewife Neelam Kher, stranded as she set out to meet a friend near the Central Secretariat Metro station.
People travelled hours to get across even short distances in the heart of the capital, what with huge deployment of police personnel and double-layer bariccading.
“I was coming from Talkatora Road and wanted to go to Shastri Bhavan. The traffic is unimaginable, moving at a snail’s pace. Many roads in the area are blocked, and it is taking hours to commute short distances,” said Mukul Rana, an executive.
Shikhar Sharma, a 22 year-old student, was on his way to the north campus of Delhi University from south Delhi for his classes. The metro was extremely crowded, as many were “confused”. The announcements on the metro intercom system that stations would stay closed did not appear to clarify matters either.
“I saw a lot of confused people stranded on the platform at the Central Secretariat metro station. Trains moved haltingly during the morning rush hour, adding to the chaos,” Sharma said.
“Although they were making announcements about the closure of the stations at the Rajiv Chowk metro station, I didn’t hear any when I boarded the train in the morning,” he added.
One woman who was in the area during the protests said: “School kids were stranded, tired and hungry. I saw ambulances trying to wade through oceans of vehicles. A life inside might have been hanging by a thread. I saw old, angry people walking long distances as metro stations were shut, and buses weren’t plying.”
Kejriwal’s demand for swaraj is “such a nuisance”, she said.
“He wants Delhi Police under his control. For what? To support the unlawful activities of his law minister? Such acts will only erode his mass base,” she said.
Shilpa Mehra, a student of Class 8 strapped to a wheelchair, said Kejriwal could continue his protests if he chose, but “at a different venue”.
“My daughter is wheelchair-bound. I have no other way but to take her out of this place in her wheelchair, no vehicle can come here,” her mother said.
Satwant Singh, 50, had to alight from the Metro at Jor Bagh and then wend his way back to Shastri Bhavan. “It’s always the common man at the receiving end,” he said.
“This is what happens every time. The common man ends up suffering because of government problems. I took an auto all the way from Jor Bagh, when I could easily have got off the train at Shastri Bhavan (Kendriya Sachivalya station),” he said.
Baton-wielding police were deployed to prevent chief minister Arvind Kejriwal from taking his protest against alleged police inaction in crimes to the doors of the colonial-era headquarters of the home ministry.
Delhi’s police are under the control of Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, an arrangement that has irked successive chief ministers. In most Indian states, local government controls law and order.
Kejriwal took office in December after a stunning debut in a state election, and is now trying to build the party’s presence before a national poll due by May.
Yesterday he called on the public to join him in a ten-day protest to demand the police be transferred to his control. Critics say his demonstration was inviting chaos in one of India’s most sensitive security areas, minutes away from parliament and the prime minister’s office. It has led to those closure of five metro stations.
“Some say I am an anarchist, that I am spreading anarchy. I am willing to agree to that,” Kejriwal told demonstrators, saying police inaction against crime spread chaos.
“So, today I want to spread that anarchy to Shinde’s home too. I have come to spread anarchy in the police commissioner’s house too.”