Almost everybody remembers the image of Sheila Dikshit, old and exhausted, struggling to fight back her tears before the cameras, expressing her helplessness in ensuring women’s safety in the national capital. A series of ghastly rapes had rocked the national capital and Mrs. Dikshit was unable to do anything to put a stop to them. She spoke of her agony, her angst, her anger at the rising incidences of rape in Delhi but soon switched to how she could do nothing because Delhi Police was not in her control. She went on to say how she had been appealing to the Central government for over a decade but to no avail.
Viewers watching the interview were horrified. Here was a woman, who they had voted for 3 consecutive terms, claiming effectively that rapes would continue as nobody was taking her seriously. Sheila Dikshit’s political detractors were quick to pile on to her. Elections were around the corner in Delhi and Sheila Dikshit’s interview had given her opponents the ammunition that could be used to target her government.
Anti-Corruption crusader turned politician, Arvind Kejriwal and his recently formed Aam Aadmi Party were one of Sheila Dikshit’s staunchest critics.
Tweet after tweet, rally after rally, speech after speech, Arvind Kejriwal promised voters that if voted to power, he would establish the rule of law and bring an end to the menace of rapes in the national capital. Voters were enthused, after all, here was a leader who was ready to take the problem head on. In the elections held soon thereafter, AAP emerged as a force to reckon with in Delhi politics and ended up forming a government with Congress, who it had blamed for all of Delhi’s ills. But that is another matter.
AAP and Arvind Kejriwal got another opportunity to govern Delhi, this time more decisively with the massive mandate that denizens of Delhi bestowed on AAP. One reason why AAP won a handsome mandate was because Arvind Kejriwal was seen as a leader who was genuinely interested in getting things done. He was seen as an outsider to politics, although he had already fought several political battles until then. He had a clean image and most importantly, voters felt that he would be able to get Delhi its due.
Women’s safety, figured prominently on his party’s manifesto and his credentials on women’s safety, well-established from the time when he ridiculed Sheila Dikshit’s helplessness, helped him lure voters to his side. Voters trusted Arvind Kejriwal and AAP is clear from the fact that even though AAP’s commitment for women’s safety was doubtful from Somnath Bharti’s outrageous midnight raid in 2014, where African women were molested and manhandled by a crowd led by him, voters chose to give AAP another chance.
It now appears that like many promises, Arvind Kejriwal and AAP did not intend to keep their commitment on ensuring women’s safety in Delhi.
Data from December 2015 shows that crime in the capital had gone up by 20%, while cases of rape had increased by 27%. Data from June 2016 shows that there has been a 7.5% hike in rape cases between May 2015 and May 2016. These shocking statistics indicate that something is very wrong with the way the present Delhi government is handling the issue of women’s safety.
Delhi government’s contemptuous towards issues relating to women’s safety was recently borne out by an RTI filed by one Harish Khurana, who is a spokesperson of the BJP.
From the response to the RTI, it emerges that Arvind Kejriwal led AAP government has held no meetings on women’s safety between 14th Feb 2015 to 9th June 2016. It appears that Arvind Kejriwal has met neither the Union Home Minister, nor the Lieutenant Governor, nor the Union Home Secretary on this particular issue. Apparently, there has never even been a meeting between Delhi CM and Delhi’s Police Commissioner on this issue.
Shocking as this revelation is, Arvind Kejriwal has, during this period, not shied away from exploiting the issue of women’s safety to gain political mileage. He regularly deploys the most vulgar language to blame the Prime Minister for not doing enough for women’s safety in Delhi, while his own commitment to this issue remains shaky at the best.
Only weeks ago, a teenage girl succumbed to her injuries after being raped for months and being force fed acid. This and countless other cases could perhaps have been prevented if Arvind Kejriwal had taken as much interest in ensuring women’s safety as he takes in politicizing it.
Arvind Kejriwal has come a long way from the days when he used to claim that he was entering the system to change it for the better. The change from an anti-corruption crusader to an inveterate deceitful politician has happened steadily over the last few years. One can only pity Delhi voters who saw in him a symbol of change but are today contending with an apathetic administration that puts politics before everything else.
It seems that women’s safety, like Kejriwal’s many other promises will need to wait as he searches for more fertile political landscapes to crown his gigantic political ambitions.