NEW DELHI: Accusing Home Minister Amit Shah of "abdication of duty" during the communal violence in Delhi, a Congress delegation led by party chief Sonia Gandhi on Thursday urged President Ram Nath Kovind to call for his resignation and remind the Centre of its "raj dharma".
Reading out parts of the memorandum that the party submitted to the president, Gandhi said both the Delhi government and the Centre remained "mute spectators" instead of trying to take remedial measures to control the situation.
"We call upon you and the constitutional office you hold, that the life, liberty and property of the citizens is preserved, secured and protected. You should immediately call for the removal of the home minister given the gross ineptitude, abdication of duty and his inability to contain the situation.
We owe this to the citizens who have lost their loved ones, their homes and their livelihood and most of all their long cherished amity and brotherhood. We hope you will take decisive action on this matter," she told the media outside Rashtrapati Bhavan after meeting the president.
The delegation included former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ahmed Patel, P Chidambaram, K C Venugopal, Mallikarjuna Kharge, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Anand Sharma, A K Antony, Kumari Selja and Randeep Surjewala.
"Rashtrapatiji, you are given the highest possible responsibility under the Constitution of India: to act as the conscience keeper of this government and to remind it of its constitutional duty and the pillars of raj dharma by which any just government must abide," she said, flanked by senior leaders of her party.
Questioning Shah's role, Gandhi asked where he was as the violence spread across northeast Delhi.
"What was he preoccupied with since last Sunday that he was unable, apparently, to give his attention to these grave events? For that matter, the Delhi chief minister, and the newly elected Delhi government were also completely missing from the scene.
There was clearly a shocking and, in this day and age, unpardonable failure of intelligence agencies leading up to these heart-breaking events. Was there any information provided which could have helped prevent escalation of violence or was it not acted upon by the Home ministry?" she asked.
Gandhi said both the Centre and the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government had failed in carrying out their responsibilities.
"Instead of taking active steps to remedy or diffuse the situation, the Central government as also the newly elected Delhi government have remained mute spectators as completely mindless rage, designed violence and organised looting of property has continued unabated," she said.
Hitting out at Delhi Police, Gandhi said the forces on the ground were clearly inadequate to quell the situation in northeast Delhi and asked why additional security forces were not deployed immediately by Shah.
Manmohan Singh, in his remarks to the media, said the Congress leaders conveyed to the president that what had happened in the last four days in the national capital was a matter of deep concern and national shame.
"That 34 people have died and more than 200 people have been injured is reflection of the total failure of the Central government to control the situation.
We requested the president to use his power to call upon the central government to protect and preserve its raj dharma so that the citizens of this country and this city are assured of peace, tranquillity and justice," he said.
Gandhi also said it was a "shameful indictment" of the Central government, the Home ministry and the Home minister himself, that the Delhi High Court had to step in (on Wednesday).
It had to remind the Home ministry and the police of their principal duty to act against instigators, the rioters and those engaging in the acts of targeted violence, she said.
"What is particularly worrying is that an atmosphere of sectarian hate and communal tensions has been spread and deliberately cultivated by certain individuals and forces.
"This violence has taken place over the course of four days, but you are aware that the seeds of this division have been sown by deliberately made inflammatory remarks of BJP leaders in the run up to (and even after) the Delhi elections and a calculated design to foment hate and division amongst the citizens of this country," Gandhi said.
When asked to comment on the president's silence so far on the violence, Gandhi said that it was not her place to comment on it.
"Let them talk, we will say what we want to," Gandhi added when asked about BJP's statements on the violence.
"It is how the leaders and institutions of a country react in times of crisis that defines how we are remembered by history and the rest of the world.
We cannot be found wanting in this hour where certain groups seek to divide the people of our great nation for their parochial and petty gains," she said.