New Delhi: Residents of Northeast Delhi have been at the mercy of rioting mobs since Sunday but their representatives in the Lok Sabha and the Delhi assembly have largely been absent from the scene.
It was only Wednesday morning, the fourth day of the violence, that Ghonda MLA Ajay Mahawar of the BJP reached Chand Bagh, one of the worst-affected areas, where he will meet the family of an Intelligence Bureau officer slain in the riots.
Even Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has yet to pay a visit to the areas that witnessed violence, choosing instead to pray for peace at Rajghat Tuesday evening with several AAP MLAs.
At least 24 people have died so far in the riots, which are believed to have been triggered by differences over the Citizenship Amendment Act but have since transformed into a communal frenzy. The count of injured stood at nearly 150 as of Wednesday afternoon.
The worst-affected areas are Babarpur, Maujpur, Chand Bagh, Gokulpuri, Jafrabad, Vijay Chowk, Bhajanpura, Karawal Nagar, Rohtas Nagar, Ghonda, and Tilak Nagar.
These are represented by one Lok Sabha constituency, Northeast Delhi, and seven assembly seats — Gokulpuri, Babarpur, Mustafabad, Seelampur, Karawal Nagar, Ghonda, Tilak Nagar.
Tiwari to visit Wednesday
Northeast Delhi is held by the BJP, which also represents two of the seven aforementioned assembly seats. The remaining five seats are held by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
Northeast Delhi MP Manoj Tiwari accompanied Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan to meet the family of the head constable who died Monday and also visited Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, where most victims of the riots were brought. However, he has yet to visit the affected areas. Approached by ThePrint, his office said he would be visiting his constituency Wednesday.
Tiwari, who did not take calls all of Tuesday, condemned the violence in an official statement issued late at night.
“All political parties should rise above party politics to restore peace in Delhi as soon as possible,” said Tiwari, who is also Delhi BJP chief. “Strict action should be taken against those inciting violence.”
Why they didn’t visit
Kejriwal held a meeting Tuesday morning with MLAs of the affected areas, asking them to formulate peace communities to spread the message of harmony.
The AAP government has also deployed many ambulances to provide immediate medical assistance and MLAs have been directed to ensure their smooth operations. The Delhi High Court said Wednesday that Kejriwal and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia should visit the affected areas as a confidence-building measure.
Most MLAs, however, are yet to visit their constituencies.
Gokulpuri MLA Surender Kumar of AAP said they “were taking all the possible measures”.
“We have created several teams who are meeting different communities in the area to appeal for peace,” he added.
Kumar was among the MLAs who accompanied the chief minister to Rajghat Tuesday, claiming it was a universal place to advocate for peace instead of going to each affected area which, he said, wasn’t possible.
Babarpur MLA Gopal Rai, also a senior cabinet minister in the Delhi government, waited outside the Delhi lieutenant governor’s house on the intervening night of Monday and Tuesday to take up the matter with him. However, the L-G did not meet him.
Asked about steps taken on their part, Rai’s office said they had constituted peace communities and he would visit the area Wednesday. However, they added that it would be impossible for him to visit every pocket.
Mustafabad MLA Haji Yunus and Seelampur MLA Abdul Rehman, both AAP leaders, didn’t respond to repeated calls from ThePrint.
Mohan Singh Bisht, the BJP MLA from Karawal Nagar, chose to issue a “telephonic appeal for peace” to local residents.
“If we step out, mahaul aur bigad jayega (the situation will worsen),” he said, adding that people “get pumped to get violent” when they see an elected representative step out. He will step out in the area, he said, when the violence subsides.
Tilak Nagar MLA Jarnail Singh expressed relief that his area had not been affected by the violence, even though the Ashok Nagar mosque set ablaze Tuesday falls within his jurisdiction.
ThePrint approached the AAP spokespersons for comment but couldn’t reach them despite repeated calls.
Asked about the missing AAP MLAs, Congress leader Alka Lamba, who was earlier a member of the Kejriwal-led party, suggested most brooked no recognition and were probably scared they would be attacked too. “This is not the 2012 Kejriwal and hence he won’t step out into the affected areas. As for the MLAs, well, they managed to win in the name of Kejriwal and the jhaadu [AAP symbol], but no one really knows them… no wonder some are scared they will be attacked too.”
Taking pre-emptive measures
Many other AAP MLAs are, meanwhile, trying to take pre-emptive measures to ensure their constituencies are not affected by the violence.
AAP leader Sanjeev Jha, who represents Burari in North Delhi, said he had “personally been taking rounds of the area”. “Thankfully, there has been no casualty in our area so far.”
Somnath Bharati, the AAP MLA for Malviya Nagar in South Delhi, took to Twitter late night Tuesday to say he had taken a round of his constituency and “everything was okay”. He claimed he found police patrolling the area and asked resident welfare associations to be vigilant “especially qua outsiders”.
Another MLA, Abhay Verma, the BJP representative for Laxmi Nagar, which is close to the affected areas, allegedly marched through the Mangal Bazaar area chanting slogans such as “goli maaro (shoot)”, “Jai Shri Ram”, and “jo Hindu hit ki baat karega, wohi desh pe raj karega (whoever talks of Hindu rights will rule the nation”. The allegation came to light with a video posted by Kejriwal’s former media adviser Nagendar Sharma, but Verma has denied the allegation.