India’s Arvind Kejriwal runs Delhi from mass sit-in

Supporters of New Delhi chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal carry Indian flags as they run close to the area where Kejriwal spent the night during a sit-in protest in New Delhi on January 21, 2014

Delhi’s chief minister has vowed to step up his virtually unprecedented street protest amid a row over who controls the city’s police force.

Arvind Kejriwal and members of his cabinet spent the night in the open in the heart of the capital and are now conducting daily business on the road.

Police clashed with protesters who gathered to join on Tuesday.

His anti-corruption Aam Aadmi Party caused a shock with its strong performance in recent state elections.

Correspondents say his actions have divided the public with some hailing this as a new form of democracy and public protest but others urging him to get off the streets in order to govern as he was elected to do.

Skirmishes have been reported as hundreds of policemen cordoned off the site of his demonstration and positioned water cannons on the road.

Traffic has been thrown into chaos and at least four metro stations have been shut down.

«Since yesterday no food or water has been allowed to enter the protest site. What message the central government wants to convey? Many people want to come but they are stopped through barricades,» Mr Kejriwal told reporters.

«Police [are] carrying people selectively in to the bus and beating them up. Is this called democracy?»

Nevertheless, Mr Kejriwal and his cabinet ministers are continuing to conduct daily administrative business on the streets.

Policing row

Mr Kejriwal took the helm as Delhi’s chief minister last month on a ticket to fight corruption and conduct politics differently, calling his party a «new broom».

But he quickly became embroiled in a row over policing after one of his ministers accused officers of failing to crack down on an alleged drugs and prostitution ring – the police deny these claims.

Delhi’s police force is run by the federal government and the impromptu protest began on Monday when Mr Kejriwal was prevented from going to the home minister’s office to demand the suspension of several officers.

It started with an incident which threatened to become a diplomatic issue, pitching the Aam Aadmi Party, the police and members of Delhi’s African community at loggerheads.

Last Wednesday Mr Kejriwal’s Law Minister, Somnath Bharti, and various party supporters allegedly confronted four Ugandan women in a Delhi neighbourhood accusing them of prostitution.

India""s Rapid Action Force (RAF) personnel walk at the site of a protest by Delhi's chief minister Arvind Kejriwal (not pictured) in New Delhi January 20, 2014. Hundreds of police were at the protest site, just days ahead of India’s Republic Day celebrations

A row erupted when police refused to search a nearby house for evidence of a suspected drugs and prostitution ring because they did not have a warrant.

Mr Bharti and Aam Aadmi Party supporters were accused of threatening and intimidating the women, forcing their way into homes and making racist remarks – they deny these allegations.

Indian Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde says a judicial inquiry into the role of the police has been ordered and Mr Kejriwal «should wait for its result» before protesting.

But Mr Kejriwal says his protest encompasses more grievances than just that case.

His party has also condemned the police for their handling of other cases, such as the recent alleged gang-rape of a Danish woman in Delhi and the case of a woman who was reportedly killed over a demand for dowry by her in-laws.


BBC News – India’s Arvind Kejriwal runs Delhi from mass sit-in.

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