The Congress on Wednesday blamed both the central and the Delhi governments for the violence in Delhi and sought the immediate resignation of Home Minister Amit Shah for failing to restore normalcy after the toll in the clashes around the Citizenship Amendment Act rose to 24.

Addressing a press conference following a meeting of the Congress Working Committee in the national Capital, Congress President Sonia Gandhi accused the Bharatiya Janata Party leaders of creating an environment of fear and hatred by making inciting statements. “We saw it happen during the Delhi Assembly election,” she said. “This was repeated by another leader [Kapil Mishra], when he issued an ultimatum to the Delhi Police.”

Sonia Gandhi said both Home Minister Amit Shah and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal have failed to bring the situation under control. “In the last 72 hours, the Delhi Police deliberately did not act leading to death of 20 including a head constable,” she said. “The Centre, especially Home Minister Amit Shah, is responsible for the current violence and we demand his resignation.

Sonia Gandhi also pointed to serious lapses in security, and asked why the Home Ministry did not deploy paramilitary forces to quell the violence. “Where was the Home Minister? What did the intelligence agencies say after the Delhi elections and what action was taken then? It was clear that riots were going to spread,” she added. “When the situation got out of control and the police could not control it why wasn’t the paramilitary forces called in? Additional forces must be deployed immediately to bring the situation under control.”

The Congress leaders’ plan to march to Rashtrapati Bhavan to meet President Ram Nath Kovind and hand him a memorandum seeking peace was moved to Thursday because of his unavailability.

Ahead of the press briefing, the Congress Working Committee – the highest decision-making body of the party – passed a resolution at a meeting in New Delhi, in which it stated that the violence was “a colossal failure of duty for which the entire responsibility must be borne by the central government and, particularly, the Home Minister”. It also demanded the resignation of Home Minister Amit Shah.

“It is the collective failure of the two governments that have resulted in a great tragedy in the capital city which threatens to become worse by the day,” the committee said. The meeting, chaired by Sonia Gandhi, was also attended by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and senior leaders AK Antony, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Jyotiraditya Scindia.

Addressing the media, Sonia Gandhi urged the people of Delhi to maintain communal harmony and defeat forces that intend to divide the country on the basis of religion. She demanded that peace committees be setup in all areas with representatives from all religions.

“The CWC appeals to the people to reject the politics of hate. Such events should not take place ever again,” she added. “We call all Congress leaders and workers to visit and extend all support to those in affected areas and to build bridges in affected communities this will be the most fitting tribute to Mother India.”

BJP hits back

In response, Union minister Prakash Javadekar lashed out at the Congress, accusing the party of politicising the violence, the Hindustan Times reported.

“At a time like this, instead of helping to calm the situation down, they are pinning the blame on the government,” Javadekar said, adding that this was not the first time that the party was criticising the government on the basis of unfounded claims. “Last year too, the Congress raised questions on the Balakot air strikes, and before that on the surgical strikes.”

Calling Congress’ demand for Shah’s resignation “farcical”, Javadekar said: “They should know that he [Amit Shah] called a meeting yesterday [Tuesday] and has been raising the morale of the police. By politicising this violence, the Congress is lowering the morale of the police.”

“The irony is the party that has the blood of the Sikh massacre on its hands is talking of this violence,” Javadekar added, alleging that former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi supported the violence that had broken out after Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984. “In 1984, Sikhs were killed across the city, here the violence has been contained to an area.”

The minister said he was confident that a police investigation would make it clear who was behind the violence.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his first reaction to the violence that began on Sunday, appealed for peace and calm in the Capital. He said he had reviewed the situation and that security forces had been working towards ensuring “normalcy”.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the situation was alarming and that the Army should be called in as the police were unable to handle it. But National Security Advisor Ajit Doval said there were enough forces on the ground and that people must trust in the Delhi Police’s capabilities.