Around two kilometres from Batla House chowk — in the midst of congested roads that have e-rickshaws, fruit vendors and cloth sellers competing for space — is the house of AAP MLA Amanatullah Khan.
The residence, in Zakir Nagar, has four storeys, with the MLA and his three brothers occupying one each. Since he was arrested and sent to 14-day judicial custody, the building has hardly seen any activity, with just three people lined up on Saturday to inquire about the public distribution system (PDS). A party worker at the office is busy addressing their queries, while another is on the phone. A poster on a computer reads: “I love Amanatullah, arrest me too.”
“These posters were made by people of the area after vidhayakji (the MLA) was arrested,” said Saquib, (24) Khan’s cousin, who helps him in party activities in the constituency. Most of the family members said Khan — arrested along with MLA Prakash Jarwal for allegedly assaulting the Delhi Chief Secretary — was “targeted because of his religion”.
“I was with him when he went to surrender. We are being targeted because of our religion. Look at both people who have been arrested — a Muslim and a Dailt,” said Saquib. Khan’s elder brother Waqifullah Khan (45) said the family is flummoxed because even though the MLA has been arrested in the past as well, he has never been “treated like this by the police, or portrayed so negatively in the media”. He also made allegations of ill-treatment inside the jail, and that his brother was being “kept alongside petty thieves”.
Azam Khan, 50, another one of Khan’s cousins, said, “For a second, imagine he assaulted… does that mean you will demand his custody for two weeks and dismiss the bail? People get bail for bigger crimes… Has he committed a theft or dacoity that you need to interrogate him?” Around 10 km from Khan’s house, the views were echoed by Jarwal’s relatives.
The MLA lives in Devli in a four-floor house, freshly painted red and decorated for his wedding on February 6. Jarwal is married to area councillor Jyoti Kohli. Jarwal’s brother Anil Jarwal, the youngest of the six siblings, alleged, “Senior bureaucrats have taunted him for being Dalit. He raised the issue but no one listened… The way he has been portrayed… we keep our children away from TV news.”
The family said his arrest has dampened Holi celebrations. “Relatives who couldn’t come to Prakash’s wedding were supposed to join us. But now the joy has disappeared,” he said.