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If one were to hear the Congress criticism of BJP, one would imagine that misuse of state machinery is a BJP trait with all the snoop gate and fake encounters. Yet what happened in Amethi is hardly different.

After a month of routine attacks by Congress workers on Aam Aadmi Party volunteers, the end of campaigning before the polling saw a new phase of enlightenment. Congress fell back to its classic tactic. Weaponizing state machinery. I have remarked before, that if BJP's targets suffer violence from supposedly unaffiliated random Senas and Dals, people Congress targets find themselves on the wrong side of the law from the complaints of anyone except the Congress. We saw it when Kapil Sibal did an about turn on his attempt to control free speech two years ago. A random lawyer still got the "objectionable content" he had a problem with banned through courts. The Janlokpal Andolan saw similar moves. Now it is the same in Amethi.

The Amethi police woke up to the Representation of the People Act last night. The act says, “the presence of political functionaries, party workers, procession functionaries and campaign functionaries etc who have been brought from outside the constituency and who are not voters of the constituency, should not continue to remain present in the constituency as their continued presence after campaign ends may undermine the atmosphere for free and fair poll.’

In a bizarre twist of interpretation, they have interpreted it to mean all AAP supporting non-voters in Amethi. Whether they are party functionaries and campaigners or not. Including Kumar Vishwas's family, which isn't there merely to campaign, but have actually moved to Amethi, with his daughters enrolled in the local school. Sanctimonious Congressis are giving the example of how Siddaramaiah had to leave the Mysore constituency quite forgetting that he was also CM and promoting his party. Did every Congressi non-voter leave Mysore?

Police demanding that Dr. Kumar Vishwas's family leave Amethi in the middle of the night
Police demanding that Dr. Kumar Vishwas's family leave Amethi in the middle of the night

Late last night, the police cars blared on loudspeakers outside Kumar Vishwas' home asking all non-voters in his family to leave urgently or they would be arrested - including his wife and sister who have moved to Amethi with him and are now residents, even if not voters and not functionaries in the party.

When quick thinking AAP supporters alerted the media to the unfolding drama, the channels arrived, and the police slunk away. The police returned with their threats as soon as the channels left. Clearly the police did not want to be recorded with their illegal demands and creative thinking around not arresting women at night, merely trying to bully them into leaving home in the night. The channels left and the police returned and so far, other than stray reports in one or two people, media has most cooperatively managed to not see what the police did not want to show them.

The police on their part are claiming to carry out the Election Commission's orders, which raises questions about the neutrality and competence of the Election Commission in Amethi, since the orders seem to be directed at only one party.

In my opinion, this points to a larger conspiracy in Amethi, and the BJP silence bodes ill for Varanasi. An issue of this magnitude being carried out with such impunity and confidence about lack of objections by anyone except target, in my eyes indicates every possibility of a a reciprocal arrangement.

AAP MLA Akhilesh Pati Tripathi from Model Town was arrested.

AAP volunteers at police station on 6th morning
AAP volunteers at police station on 6th morning

Police confiscated the booth bags from volunteers in Aam Aadmi Party's Mohanganj office at 11:20 in the night and arrested 9 volunteers, at least one of whom updated that they were sleeping on the floor of the police station.

AAP volunteers in Amethi jail
AAP volunteers in Amethi jail

SDM of Mohanganj in Amethi has picked us up from our AAP office (where we were sleeping) in Mohanganj and has detained me and 9 other AAP members @ 2320 saying we are violating model code of conduct. We r @ Police Station sleeping on floor.

There have been reports of police taking away phones of anyone they saw trying to record the police actions at Kumar Vishwas's home.

Even as cars are parked outside the Munshiganj guest house where Congress functionaries and workers from outside the constituency are staying, even as AAP volunteers reported that a car involved in an attack on AAP workers was seen parked outside the Munshiganj guest house, it appears that the Amethi police do not expect the Representation of People Act to apply to the Congress. Nor has the exercise been repeated at the BJP offices. As with BJP not attacking Congress in Varanasi, Congress does not appear to be attacking BJP in Amethi, though they will, of course deny being hand in glove.

This leads me to wonder if a similar exercise will be carried out in Varanasi. Aam Aadmi Partywould do well to anticipate the tactic being repeated and be prepared to manage their presence in such an eventuality.

Here is a WhatsApp post from a volunteer in Amethi:

पुलिस कुमार भईया के घर पे है और कह रही है
भाभी को अमेठी से
जाना पड़ेगा क्योंकि उनके पास
अमेठी का voter id
नहीं है # 144InAmethi ..क्या स्मृति ईरानी ,राहुल
गाँधी और प्रियंका गाँधी के पास
है ...CONGRESS HAI HAI.
Hum b girefdari denge chahe jaan chle jaaye गिरफ्तारी सुरु हो चुकी है 10 आम
आदमी कार्यकर्ताओ को गिरफ्तार
किया गया ,मॉडल टाउन के विधयक
को भी गिरफ्तार किया गया पुलिस ने बूथ बैग
अपने कब्जे मे किये... Police back at @DrKumarVishwas' for
arresting his
wife. # 144inAmethi ...CONGRESS HAI
HAI Dr. Kumar Vishwas
रात 11 बजे पुलिस वाले मेरे अमेठी आवास पर
आए हैं, और उनका कहना है कि आपके घर में
जितने लोग ठहरे हुए हैं, यदि वो अमेठी के वोटर
नहीं हैं, तो उनको गिरफ्तार किया जाएगा।
मेरे यह कहने पर, कि मेरी पत्नी और मेरी बहनें
यहाँ हैं, उनका क्या? प्रशासन का कहना है
कि यदि अभी के अभी घर
खाली नहीं किया गया, तो उन्हें
भी गिरफ्तार कर लिया जाएगा।
मैं एक सवाल पूछता हूँ - मुंशीगंज गेस्ट हाउस में
सैकड़ों कांग्रेस कार्यकर्ता हैं, क्या प्रशासन
मुंशीगंज गेस्ट हॉउस खाली करवाने का साहस
कर सकता है?

Another person, on reading the updates from Amethi commented:

Though I was about to sleep and thought I won't msg about political msgs... I felt compelled to write...  Specially those who think Aap is B team of any other pol party why such nonsense is happening?

I have kept an stand of on observer but this seems too undemocratic. I know many of us have already voted... This Msg is specially for making you think - where exactly we're heading as a democracy, are we really a democracy, are these netas not goons in white clothes... Are we still going to say cons are good, are we still going to say "Ab ki bar.. "

Why beat your fellow citizens, why misuse power.... Had these netas done their job well, this situation won't have arrived.

A request - just think - ain't intentions of Aap genuine?

A part of me is glad that this happened. The more BJP targeted AAP in Benares, the more their support eroded. This happening before the election day is news that spreads fast and will hopefully add the final nail to the Congress coffin in a fiefdom of entitlement without duties.

The media reporting or not reporting anything doesn't make any difference to locals who see what is going on. The attacks, the impunity, the uneven misuse of state machinery, the man who lived among them for months and moved his children to the local school, and the prince who ruled them for so long without denting their "backward district" image.

Voiceless voters have a way of devastating those with voice at the polling booths, the one place they can hit back with impunity.

[I thank over a dozen willing volunteers who painstakingly emailed me updates and sources on the situation, since I was not able, and in the process, made this post possible. KRD Pravin, Kartik Kwatra, Richa Bharadwaj, Alka Harke, and others who sent in quick inputs on Twitter, which have since faded into its depths, but influenced this post, thank you.]

The BJP has declined to form a government in Delhi, as was expected. However, while reelections will dramatically improve the Aam Aadmi Party's chances of getting elected with a clean majority, all else remaining same, the chances are that everything else will not remain the same. A clear disadvantage AAP will be facing now is that it will not be taken lightly and the determined efforts to sabotage its credibility will only escalate.

This is no minor thing, with the Congress leading the UPA that controls Delhi police as well as the BJP's nuisance value in terms of organized slander. While the Aam Aadmi Party sustained itself against the attacks reasonably well, it would do well to remember the price it paid with the sting or with Anna's allegations or "independent" candidates and prepare itself better for defending its credibility as well as showcasing its strengths. With the BJP and Congress on the war path again, media spotlight is likely to dry up rapidly too. For all their benevolence now they know which side of their bread is buttered.

A quick example is today's Cobrapost sting operation showing MP's providing letters of recommendation without verifying credibility of the organization it was recommending - for a fee. Do note how this sting has sunk like a rock in public attention as compared with the well-hyped sting against AAP which didn't even show anything conclusive.

The leaders of Aam Aadmi Party need to become visible again providing clear direction to volunteers. There need to be sustained efforts to ensure that previous proofs of corruption and misuse of authority are prosecuted in upcoming months, so that the difference between what AAP offers is clear and in the attention of the masses. There will be need to reduce areas where Aam Aadmi can be legitimately criticized as well as fulfilling promises made that they are in a position to deliver already.

Two key points come to mind:

  • Appointing a Public Information Officer to answer RTI queries. Aam Aadmi Party had promised this when it was campaigning to Save RTI and it must deliver on this promise that does not require it to be elected before fulfilling. Let people experience that Aam Aadmi Party also delivers what it claims as opposed to others. So far, there are few opportunities to demonstrate this, and this glaring one is starting to look like a promise broken with sustained ignoring of all demands raised to appoint a PIO.
  • It is not enough to simply say you support the gay community in their protest against Section 377 IPC. An LGBT Aadmi is an Aam Aadmi too, and the party's response to this development is sorely lacking in the kind of ownership that is seen on other issues. Aam Aadmi Party should consider giving a ticket to an LGBT person in the coming elections. Every state should try to have at least one LGBT person among their candidates. Let your voice ring with support for this Aam Aadmi as well, not just vague mumbles of supporting *their* protests. These are *our* protests. It is an opportunity to show your ability to lead reform for the future of the nation as well, instead of just channeling people's immediate problems.

Speaking of leading to the future and having a vision, these six months should also be used to revise the manifestos to include a larger vision on civil rights that is common to all constituencies and beyond local issues. A direction for growth. There is a need to consult experts on human rights and other subjects and form a larger understanding and decisions on issues like privacy - for example. India doesn't have a privacy law, but it is an important fundamental right. The AAP manifestos have spoken freely of CCTV monitoring. However, there seems to be little in terms of safeguards that protect civilian privacy that can be violated using those CCTVs in the normal run of events. They should be added. Perhaps some kinds of CCTVs will need to be offered differently to ensure rights are not violated.

There needs to be some vision in the party on issues facing the country's immediate future like free speech, gender rights, privacy, state spying, censorship, education, intellectual property, open content, consent on various matters ranging from sex to medical procedures and more, just like there needs to be a vision on water and housing. There need to be stands on things like UID, ICMS, IT Act, IT Rules, RTE, and more. It is not enough to say we are decentralized. What do you stand for? If you stand for human rights, then you have to have a vision on necessary change. It isn't enough to say whatever masses want, because plenty of places in India, masses will also want to ban phones for women or may want to allow child marriage or something else equally undesirable, but comfortingly desirable to an unevolved society.

These six months should be used to build the party into something the rest of the states can network with and adapt and form a vision for the whole country, as the states have already started announcing their intentions.

The vibrant magic of Aam Aadmi Party before the elections seems to have faded into a complacent glow that seems to take success for granted. I think the sights need to be set firmly on where you want to go instead of where you came from. Much needs to be done, but all of a sudden, the party seems content to do nothing and just enjoy the result - which is a rather long time to be idle when it comes to politics.

Gone is all the talk of the party's vision, what it will achieve, volunteers engaging with people, commentary on current affairs by the party.... it is almost like winning sent the party into oblivion.

Please don't take this lightly. The well entrenched politics of India is not going to part like some mythical sea just because new people are claiming a halo. They are still the same people the country desperately needs an alternative to. So Aam Aadmi Party needs to continue to be the people speaking up its alternative vision.

It isn't just about votes. It is about building a new relationship. It is about sustaining what was started in the campaign and nurturing it from a seasonal thing into something more dependable, instead of setting it adrift now that it doesn't need to act for the party.

Wake up and grab the steering wheel again, Aam Aadmi Party!

Here is an update from Facebook.

Shiv-Sainiks were ransacking a small hotel in Versova and my maid's kid, along with 5 friends, heard about it and went over to the hotel to see what had happened.

By the time they got there, the Shiv-Sainiks were gone and police had arrived. With no-one to catch, the police went after these kids and caught 2 out of 6 of them.

They have been beating those 2 kids for about 2 weeks, demanding to know about 'their leader'. The 2 kids have finally broken and since they have nobody to name, they have named their remaining 4 friends.

As I type this, the 4 kids are scared shitless and hiding from the police while the police has issued arrest warrants and is harassing the families for their whereabouts. They all know that all the kids will be beaten to a pulp if they are taken in.

To me, this looks like the police needing to and blaming innocents for damage caused by the Shiv-Sena, since they obviously can't go after the real culprits.

I need to help these kids. I'm looking for this to get any media attention it can, or any legal advice on the matter, or any intervention by anyone who is in a position to make one.

PLEASE share this and help me help these innocent kids. The families are at the police station NOW - other members of the families are being taken in. there's no saying what methods they will employ to find these kids, only to blame them and punish them for the SHIV-SENA's actions.

Trying to find out details, but this clearly shows how entrenched the thuggery is among both Shiv Sena and the police. Here is an urgent need for the state to claim its streets back.

Update: Mumbai Mirror reports a robbery of a pub in Versova by people "pretending to be Shiv Sena"

The Versova police on Wednesday arrested a man who allegedly led 10 other men and ransacked and looted money from a pub claiming to be Shiv Sena members.

The accused, identified as Sopan Karande, was part of the group that had attacked the staff of a pub named Soda at Versova on November 14. After assaulting the owner and staff, they allegedly fled with cash kept at the cash counter.

On Wednesday evening, a staffer of the pub, Sandeep Patil, 23, saw the accused who was leading the group that evening, sitting in a shoe shop at Seven Bungalows in Andheri, and alerted his employer.

The owner, Vikram Ramakrishnan, 33, reached the spot with a few police officers and identified the accused as one of the group that had ransacked the pub. “On November 14, some men started forcing people to shut their shops and restaurants claiming that Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray had died. Everyone shut down their shops, we also did, and a few customers who had ordered food were finishing it, when the group barged inside,” said Vikram in his statement to Versova police.

He added, “The group led by Karande and another person, started abusing everyone and then started assaulting the staff. When I tried to stop them they assaulted me also, and then ransacked the place. We later realized that Rs 20,000 in the cash counter had been stolen.” A case on charges of dacoity and rioting was registered with the Versova police on November 15 against 10 to 15 unidentified persons.

“We have arrested the accused and are questioning him to find out if he belongs to any political party,” said Senior Police Inspector Prakash Borse from the Versova police station.

Vikram had suffered a head injury as the accused hit him with a stone, while five staffers also suffered injuries. “The accused was accompanied by his brother and 10 other people. Two were nabbed but the attacker escaped” said Vikram’s wife Manvi.

Points to note:

  • News story is from the 29th. The story of the police harassing the "kids" seems to be from an hour back (11am ish) today (30th).
  • The description of the timings of the events seems to match in both stories.
  • Is the person harassed the same as the "kid" from the Facebook story?
  • Why, if someone has already been arrested are "kids" being harassed today?
  • Is the person arrested to let of the Shiv Sena guys? Or is the arrested criminal claiming innocence and being targeted to protect the Shiv Sena? Hope our newspapers are able to snoop more on this.
  • For someone to falsely accuse Shiv Sena has gotta be suicidal, particularly considering the form they are in since Bal Thackeray's death. So seems highly unlikely that a random thief would accuse Shiv Sena to save himself. Accusing Bhaiyas getting Sena on their side made more sense in Mumbai. Just saying.

Wonder what's happening here.