The Delhi Police on Sunday said that Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Gautam was behind the posters criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi on shortages of coronavirus vaccines in the country.

In a tweet on Sunday, the police said that their officers had noticed that walls in several areas were defaced with posters. “Accused persons on questioning told an AAP member & President of Ward 47, Arvind Gautam was behind it in Mangolpuri,” the police said. “He is absconding.”

The accused had disclosed during interrogation that Gautam had sent instructions on WhatsApp to Rahul, an owner of a graphic designing shop, to print the posters, the police said. They were told that the AAP leader paid Rs 9,000 for printing and affixing the posters.

They said that the hoardings and posters were seized from 25-year-old Anil Kumar, a resident of Sultanpuri and an e-rickshaw driver. The printer did not mention the name of the press in the footnote of the posted, thereby violating the Delhi Disaster Management Authority guidelines for running press in during the lockdown period, the police said.

The police have alleged that AAP leaders are involved in putting up the posters in other parts of Delhi as well, reported the Hindustan Times. Earlier on Sunday, the AAP had admitted to pasting the posters.

“The AAP is behind the posters,” said party leader Durgesh Pathak. “Our party workers have been arrested and hundreds are being detained in different parts of the city. We challenge Delhi Police to arrest senior AAP leaders and party MLAs instead of harassing poor people who paste posters for a little money.”

The police have registered 25 first information reports and arrested the same number of people for allegedly pasting the posters. NDTV, however, says that 17 people have been arrested so far.

The FIRs were registered under section 3 of the Prevention of Defacement of Property Act, section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) and others, according to PTI. The posters in question, written in Hindi, read: “Modi ji, why did you export the vaccines meant for our children?”

Many of them arrested have been released on bail as the sections in the FIR are all bailable, according to the Hindustan Times. Others are likely to be released after completing the formalities.

On Sunday, Pathak said the people in the whole country were asking the same question why Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party government exported crores of vaccine doses to 94 countries which otherwise could have helped save thousands of lives in India.

“Delhi Police under the central government is registering FIRs and arresting people when they are questioning why vaccines meant for them and their children were given to other countries by the Prime Minister and the BJP government,” he said.

Since January 20, India has exported nearly 6.6 crore vaccine doses to 95 countries under the Vaccine Maitri initiative. Several states are facing shortages of vaccines as manufacturers have not been able to meet supply requirements. At least eight states have decided to float global tenders for procuring the doses as they struggle to inoculate those in the age group of 18-44, who became eligible for the shots in third phase of vaccination that rolled out on May 1.

On May 12, The Bharatiya Janata Party said the 84% of the coronavirus vaccines exported so far by the Centre were part of commercial and licensing liabilities of the two manufacturers, Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech. The clarification came amid criticism of the central government from various quarters for sending vaccines to other countries without fulfilling requirements of beneficiaries in India.

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