The Aam Aadmi Party on Tuesday alleged that Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has been under house arrest since his meeting with the farmers protesting against the Centre’s agricultural laws at the Singhu border on Monday. Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and several other AAP members began a protest outside Kejriwal’s residence.
On Tuesday evening, Kejriwal said he had planned to meet the protesting farmers not as a chief minister, but as a “common man”, according to ANI. “I think they [the Delhi Police and Centre] came to know about my plan and they did not let me go,” he added.
Kejriwal also said he was glad that the Bharat Bandh was successful. “I prayed for protesting farmers while sitting inside,” he said.
The Delhi Police, however, have denied placing any restrictions on the chief minister.
“BJP’s [Bharatiya Janata Party] Delhi Police has put CM Shri Arvind Kejriwal under house arrest ever since he visited farmers at Singhu Border yesterday [Monday],” AAP said in a tweet in the morning. “No one has been permitted to leave or enter his residence.”
The party also tweeted a video showing policemen outside Kejriwal’s residence. “At the behest of the central government, Delhi Police has surrounded the Chief Minister’s residence from all sides,” the party alleged. “The BJP is furious because Kejriwal supported the farmers.”
Sisodia alleged that he was not being allowed to meet Kejriwal. “Even the deputy chief minister is not being allowed to meet the chief minister and Amit Shah’s police is saying there is no house arrest?” Sisodia tweeted. “Is it such a big crime to stand with the farmers of our country?
He claimed that Kejriwal was being targeted because he refused to allow stadiums in Delhi to be converted into jails for the farmers. “Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal prevented the BJP from building a jail, so they made his house a prison. Neither the common man nor ministers can meet him.”
Sisodia and AAP leaders were seen confronting the police about why they were not being allowed to go in and meet Kejriwal. They also shouted slogans against the Delhi police.
AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj had said during a press briefing in the morning that the police beat up the party’s MLAs when they went to meet Kejriwal on Monday. “They were thrown on the road,” Bharadwaj said.
He added that the Centre was worried about Kejriwal supporting the countrywide strike. “The Centre is scared that if Delhi’s chief minister goes to support the farmers on the day of Bharat Bandh, its lies and false assurances will be exposed,” he said.
The Delhi Police, however, denied keeping Kejriwal under house arrest. “This claim of CM Delhi being put on house arrest is incorrect,” Deputy Commissioner of Police for North District Anto Alphonse tweeted. “He exercises his right to free movement within the law of the land. A picture of the house entrance says it all.”
Alphonse said the police deployment outside Kejriwal’s residence is a regular one to ensure security, ANI reported. “We’re coordinating with the chief minister’s residence. Anyone whom they say they want to allow inside, we will allow,” he added.
Delhi Special Commissioner of Police Satish Golcha called AAP’s claims “baseless and unfounded”, ANI reported. “There’s absolutely no restriction whatsoever,” he said. “CM has been meeting his usual engagements and has been moving out of his residence. There’s adequate security in the area to maintain peace and to prevent untoward incident.”
Farmers’ unions across India called for a Bharat Bandh, or a countrywide shutdown, from 11 am to 3 pm on Tuesday to oppose the new agricultural laws. Protestors in Delhi blocked the expressway to Meerut in Uttar Pradesh. Demonstrators in West Bengal and Maharashtra stopped trains, and in Gujarat, protesting groups blocked three highways.
The Delhi Police warned of strict action against protestors who disrupt traffic, or force others to participate in the protest. Farmer leaders, however, said the Bharat Bandh will be peaceful, and no shops and establishments will be forcibly closed.
On Monday, Kejriwal met the agitating farmers at Singhu border and also reviewed the arrangements for their stay. Kejriwal said that he was not attending the protest as the chief minister of Delhi, but as a “sevadaar” or volunteer.
The Delhi chief minister again expressed his support for the farmers protest. “If you remember, when the farmers came to the [Delhi] border, the Centre and the Delhi Police had sought permission from us to convert stadiums into temporary jails,” he said. “I was pressurised to give permission. They [the Centre] had planned to allow the farmers to enter Delhi from where they will put into jails.” Kejriwal added that his government did not grant them permission, which he felt would help the cause.
Tens of thousands of farmers have camped out at the entrance to Delhi for the thirteenth consecutive day to reverse the agricultural legislation’s. The farmers agitation has been met with violent action from police, who have attempted to turn them back by using water cannons and tear gas. The authorities had taken extraordinary measures to set up blockades on highways – parking buses, trucks and other large vehicles. At some places, they even dug up trenches to obstruct farmers, many of whom camped on highways for the night in chilling temperatures.
Five rounds of talks between the farmers and the Centre have failed to break the impasse oveer the new laws. Another round of negotiations is scheduled for December 9.