Amanatullah Khan Arrested: How a Firm Kejriwal Loyalist Became AAP's Muslim Face
Khan has consistently been positioned as AAP's 'Muslim face', even in cases that had nothing to do with his seat.
The Quint DAILY
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Amanatullah Khan, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLA from Delhi’s Okhla, was arrested by the Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) of the Delhi Police on Friday in connection with alleged irregularities in the Delhi Waqf Board recruitment. In August, the ACB had written to the Lieutenant Governor (LG) demanding Khan's removal from the post of the chairman of the Waqf board. Delhi’s Deputy CM Manish Sisodia termed this a part of BJP’s "Operation Lotus" to "break" the AAP.
Khan’s arrest is a significant blow to the AAP, which has consistently positioned him as its ‘Muslim face’, paving for the party to make inroads in the community in the national capital.
AAP's 'Muslim Face' in Delhi
Khan has grown to acquire a popular connect among the masses in Okhla, and to some extent, other Muslim-populated areas of Delhi.
This despite the fact the AAP has increasingly been seen with a fair share of scepticism in the community due to its silence at critical moments.
For instance, during the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh, CM Arvind Kejriwal maintained his distance from it, as did other AAP leaders. Kejriwal had also gone on to say that “If Delhi Police was under our jurisdiction, we would have cleared the Shaheen Bagh roads in 2 hours.”
Khan, however, continued to participate in anti-CAA protests, giving addresses, and was subsequently even booked for allegedly ‘inciting violence’ after one of his speeches.
In February 2020, at the peak of the protests, Khan won the assembly elections with a comfortable margin from the Okhla constituency which housed the protests.
Any issue seemingly effecting Muslims in New Delhi, and Khan would be pushed forward by the AAP to make a statement or hit the field, even if it had nothing to do with his constituency. In April 2021, Khan filed an FIR against Dasna Devi Temple head priest, Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati, for “hurting religious sentiments” in a speech of his. Two days later, Khan had been booked for threatening Narsinghanand.
In August 2021, when anti-Muslim slogans were raised at an event in Jantar Mantar, Khan wrote a letter to Delhi police demanding that its organiser, BJP’s Ashwini Upadhyay be arrested. Upadhyay was subsequently arrested, and it was seen as a win for Khan.
But many raised the question as to why Khan was the one to write to the Delhi police, when Jantar Mantar doesn’t fall in his constituency, nor is he the minority affairs minister.
But with these moves and gestures, Khan continued growing popular in a certain pocket of Delhi’s Muslims. This, even though, he isn’t a minister in the AAP cabinet, unlike another Muslim AAP leader Imran Hussain. Hussain is the Minister of Food and Civil Supplies, but isn’t positioned as a ‘Muslim representative' like Khan.
Khan's Protest Against Bulldozer Drive
Perhaps the most powerful optic of Khan in recent times was when he blocked the bulldozer drive in Shaheen Bagh, along with local leaders of other political parties, in May 2022. This came at a time when Delhi was seeing a spate of ‘anti-encroachment drives’ led by the Municipal Corporation, but given the anti-CAA protest history of Shaheen Bagh, it attracted more attention.
At the time, The Quint had spoken to local residents about how they view Khan’s resolve in resisting the bulldozer drive.
“Yes, they (Khan and other local leaders) did what they were supposed to do. As elected representatives, or as those who are interested in making a name for themselves in politics, this was their responsibility and duty, nothing else,” Imran, a 40-year-old resident who runs his own business in Shaheen Bagh had told The Quint.
Many also said that they haven’t forgotten Kejriwal’s attitude towards the Shaheen Bagh anti-CAA protests. Thus, the potential political opportunism wasn’t lost on the residents of Shaheen Bagh.
Khan also participated in the protests against the bulldozer drive in Delhi’s Madanpur Khadar, and was arrested by the Delhi police for a few days before being let out on bail.
At the time of his arrest, several shopkeepers in Okhla, including Shaheen Bagh, shut their shops for a day, in solidarity with the MLA. Therefore, despite the misgivings, he still enjoys support among many in the area.
Khan’s Loyalty For Kejriwal
Kejriwal on Saturday, tweeted in support of Khan along with two other leaders who are under the scanner—Sisodia and Sateyndra Jain.
Earlier, when Khan was arrested in May for protests against the bulldozer drives, many had criticised Kejriwal for not taking a vocal enough stand.
Khan’s wife had tweeted at the time that she is concerned for her husband, tagging the Delhi CM’s office.
Khan has often shown fierce loyalty to the CM. He has often been at the receiving end of a lot of flak—for being Kejriwal’s Muslim-right hand—especially as criticism mounted against AAP for not doing enough to control the 2020 Delhi riots, or the party’s lack of protest against the slew of activist arrests that took place thereafter.
In 2017, when Khan spoke up against Kumar Vishwas, who was then an important leader in the AAP and among the founding members, he was suspended temporarily. But realising his importance, he was made a chairman of an assembly panel, in order to placate him. Khan's suspension was also revoked subsequently.
In 2018, Khan was arrested along with party colleague Prakash Jarwal for allegedly assaulting and manhandling Delhi Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash, although Khan maintained that he has "done no wrong."
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