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AAP's fake Gandhigiri? Mahatma had sought peace in Beliaghata, epicentre of riots

By Aviral Anand*
In the days leading up to India’s independence, when communal violence roiled areas of Kolkata, Gandhi insisted on staying in Beliaghata, the Muslim-majority area, in the midst of deadly riots. Whatever one might think of Gandhi, he believed in walking the walk, and offering his own self as the physical mediator and presence in the event of a crisis. He was able to put his body on the line.
He could have chosen to be elsewhere in Kolkata and held one of his famous prayer-meetings, hoping for a peaceful solution to the riots; for that matter, he need not have been in Kolkata for his prayer meeting -- he could have held it anywhere in India. But he consciously chose to be in the epicenter of the disturbance. That to him was the right thing to do; Kolkata was not even Gandhi’s main base of operations.
Even as parts of Delhi were engulfed in deadly violence since Sunday February 23, Delhi’s recently re-elected chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, chose to pray at Rajghat on Tuesday, February 25, rather than visiting the areas experiencing horrific violence and personally urging peace. This is the very city that entrusted so much faith in him just a few weeks ago -- faith for being their supposed well-wisher, their guardian and their benefactor.
However, one might like to spin this, especially by harping on the limited jurisdiction and powers that the Kejriwal government has with respect to Delhi, one cannot excuse the absence of a chief minister from the scenes of the disturbances.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), as part of the election campaign, had the hubris and presumption to plaster a “I Love Kejriwal'' message across the city, on various forms of advertising media. Love him they did, the citizens of Delhi, it seems, as indicated by the overwhelming electoral success of AAP.
But, the rhetorical question that may well be raised now is, “Does Kejriwal also love them -- and how far is he prepared to go as part of loving them?” Will he choose to be by their side, especially those vulnerable and being targeted, in their hour of need and crisis or will he exercise his famous “tact” again by keeping a safe distance and only uttering pious platitudes from afar?
One leading daily in the capital attempted to answer the choices available to the Kejriwal government in a very matter-of fact, prosaic manner in an article titled, “Explained: What Kejriwal government can/cannot do about Delhi violence.”
Praying at Rajghat will not magically transfer Gandhi's qualities into Kejriwal at a moment of deep crisis, when immediate, decisive, direct personal action is needed
That, however, is merely a matter of technical detail, like some minutiae, utterly irrelevant to the urgency of the moment. Gandhi was neither an elected representative, nor did he command the police or the armed forces. What he did command, to an extent, was moral authority and the strength of his convictions, which is what he put on the frontlines. 
Those are qualities one had hoped Kejriwal had to some extent; if not moral authority, then at least the moral courage to go to the scenes of violence and urge that it stop. Evidently, even that is too much to expect.
Praying at Gandhi’s mausoleum will not magically transfer those qualities into Arvind Kejriwal, especially at a moment of deep crisis, when what is needed is immediate, decisive, direct and personal action. Neither will it invoke the spirit of Gandhi to magically quell the ongoing violence. That was not the Gandhi way, one of beseeching some revered figure to intercede. Instead, it was always one of leading by personal example, of being there with the people in their hour of need.
More than 20 lives have been lost, and the Muslim community has been severely attacked and targeted. They had reposed their trust in Kejriwal and AAP, despite all the outward signs of majoritarianism that Kejriwal openly exhibited and endorsed. It had seemed they had taken the high road and looked past AAP’s strategy before elections of political aloofness from the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests in Delhi.
But this latest act of not coming out openly in their support and hiding behind the pretext of administrative limitations and general helplessness will probably not go unnoticed.
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*Socially-concerned citizen based in Delhi, believes in solidarity with global struggle of working classes, indigenous and other marginalized peoples

Comments

It is high time congress and aap.must cease to fund shaheenbagh disturbance. Aap must learn a lesson and be careful in creating disturbances.
subhash gatade said…
The article raises an important question which supporters of AAP need to answer who were patting it for the 'smart move' of not falling into the Hindu-Muslim trap as desired by the ruling dispensation at the centre during elections and lauding it for its focus on 'governance'

A section even believed that AAP’s electoral victory is a rejection of hate politics sponsored by the BJP and not bothering to know that there was roughly 8% swing in votes in BJP’s favour and was an outcome of only the most vitriolic campaign it has led in recent times.

As this scenario unfolded during elections it was incumbent on any political formation—especially one with the wherewithal and experience of being in power, and which does not subscribe to communalism as a political tool—to take hate-mongers to task and ensure legal action against them? AAP had miserably failed in this, for it decided not to engage in these debates at all.

Disturbingly, for long Kejriwal took no stand on Shaheen Bagh, but when cornered in a debate he questioned Shah’s inability to clear the road of protesters. “If Delhi Police was under the state government’s jurisdiction, it would have opened the Shaheen Bagh road in two hours,” he said. Thus, inadvertently or not, he pandered to the majoritarian prejudice against minorities. (https://www.newsclick.in/Towards-BJP-Hindutva-Lite-Template)

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