For breaking news and live news updates, Join us on Whatsapp
Opposition parties on Sunday stepped up their attack on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), targeting the ruling party at the Centre over police action against at least 25 people in Delhi over posters criticising the Prime Minister over sending Covid-19 vaccines abroad.
While Congress MP Rahul Gandhi attached a digital version of the poster to his Twitter handle and said “arrest me too”, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Durgesh Pathak also dared the Centre to arrest him, saying that the AAP pasted the posters across the city.
Nearly 1,800 digitally printed posters, reading “Modiji hamare bachchon ki vaccine videsh kyon bhej diya?” (Modiji, why did you send vaccines meant for our children abroad?) were found in east Delhi’s Kalyanpuri between Wednesday and Thursday.
The Delhi Police on Sunday said their probe revealed that AAP workers in south, west and east Delhi printed and pasted the posters. The police said 25 people were arrested till Saturday evening in as many cases registered at different police stations across the city under the Delhi Disaster Management Act, the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Defacement of Property Act.
The Congress alleged attempts by the Modi government to muzzle criticism. Party spokesperson Pawan Khera said: “On behalf of lakhs of lakhs people, who died before their time, on behalf of those living in worry, tensions and sorrow, I will ask you, where is my vaccine? Why did you sell my vaccine?”, adding that these questions will be asked on behalf of the common people.
The AAP said that the police have detained over 500 party workers in connection with the posters and asserted that they will make it a national campaign.
“The AAP is behind these posters. I am behind the posters. If you want to arrest people, please arrest us (senior leaders) and our MLAs, but please stop harassing poor people… We will not stop. We will make it a national campaign,” said AAP leader and municipal affairs incharge Durgesh Pathak at a press conference on Sunday.
In a statement on Sunday, the police said posters in east Delhi were digitally prepared by Rahul Kumar, a 26-year-old resident of Mangolpuri who runs a graphics designing shop by the name of Mamta Graphics at his house. Rahul made a digital copy of these posters as per an image received from AAP worker Arvind Gautam, a resident of Sultanpuri Majra. Gautam paid ₹9,000 for printing and pasting these posters. Rahul placed an order via email with one Rajesh Sharma, 48, owner of Addline Printing Press and a resident of Mangopuri, to get the posters printed.
Delhi’s deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia on Sunday tweeted: “Who sold vaccines meant for our children to other countries for event management?”
However, on being asked if his tweet was in connection with the poster matter, he did not comment.
Later, referring to the image of a billboard of Modi greeting people in Toronto, Sisodia tweeted: “The government which was patting its back over vaccine posters abroad has chickened out over bills pasted on its own turf.”
Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said he will put up those posters in front of his official bungalow in Lodhi Estate to show solidarity with the protesters. “Putting up critical posters against PM is now a crime? Is India run by the Modi Penal Code now? Is the Delhi Police so jobless in the middle of a raging pandemic?? I am putting up posters on my compound wall tomorrow. Come get me,” he tweeted, tagging the Delhi Police and Union home minister Amit Shah.
Pathak alleged that nearly 500 workers have been detained for questioning and several others from Karawal Nagar, Gonda jailed for questioning the government. “And now when people are asking the Prime Minister why vaccines meant for our children were sent abroad, the Delhi Police – that comes under the central government — is filing FIRs and arresting our party workers.”
Youth Congress president Srinivas BV, who has been running a successful Covid-19 relief programme, tweeted a photo in which he was holding a similar poster. “If Modi ji had not ‘exported’ more than 6 crores vaccine to make his image shine, how many Indians would have been alive today? how many families would have been saved from desolation? If asking these questions is a crime, then every worker of Youth Congress is ready to arrest.”
The police said their probe has shown that in South Delhi, Sanjay Chaudhary, allegedly an AAP functionary, directed his party worker to print the posters. It also claimed that in west Delhi another AAP worker told people to print and paste the posters.