Former Delhi Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung on Wednesday said demonstrations at Shaheen Bagh, which has emerged as the epicentre of the protests in Delhi against the Citizenship Amendment Act, were a reaction to “cumulative fear” over the last five years.

“I think over the last six years, there is a growing fear among Muslims and Christians,” he said in an interview to News18. “Having said that, I also believe that the state and central governments should have taken steps to allay these fears. The prime minister has spoken that fringe elements behave in this manner. We need to see action on the ground that fringe elements can be handled with an iron hand.” He claimed the fear stemmed from a series of actions that are perceived to be leading towards action against minorities.

Jung said Muslims perceived Centre’s decision to amend Article 370 of the Constitution and ban triple talaq as interference by the government. “And now, CAA-NRC,” he added. “The perception is that it becomes harsher on the Muslim community. This has led to fear and the reaction to this fear is now visible on the streets of India. What you are seeing in Shaheen Bagh is a reaction to all this; cumulative fear over the last five years, the fear that has now come out. And that’s what you are seeing today in various protests.”

The former lieutenant governor said protests against Citizenship Amendment Act, the planned National Register of Citizens and the National Population Register have made citizens aware of the Constitution.

He said the Narendra Modi-led government cannot afford to be seen as anti-Muslim or against minorities. “Once you give this impression, you are hurting yourself,” Jung added. “India combines all religions, you can’t single out two and say I will take care of them. We will live and die together in this country.”

‘Arvind Kejriwal has his heart in the right place’

During Jung’s tenure as a lieutenant governor till December 2016, he was known for several moves viewed as opposition to the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi. Kejriwal had locked horns with the lieutenant governor over multiple administrative matters.

However, Jung praised the work done by Kejriwal ahead of the Delhi Assembly elections. “I think as a chief minister, Arvind has his heart in the right place,” he said. “I have had differences with him, but those were on the issues of interpretation of the Constitution.” Jung said he respected Kejriwal though they looked at things differently, “because politicians often see things differently as opposed to trained civil servants like me.”

He said Kejriwal’s initial enthusiasm in politics to win 67 seats led to his path of aggression. “I think that was not necessary. But leaving that aside...his performance has been very good,” Jung added.

The 69-year-old said that the Delhi chief minister would have been far more successful than he has been, had he carried the civil servants with him from the beginning. “He had the desire to work quickly; systems should work quickly, but systems have their own momentum,” Jung said. “You can’t shortcut procedures. We can develop systems to hurry them up, but at that time civil servants were not ready to work the way Arvind wanted them to. This adversely impacted his own administration.” However, Jung added that the chief minister had become “much, much better” in the last one year. “I have good personal relations with him. Acrimony is a myth.”