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Newsmaker | The MLA vs the bulldozer: Brick by brick, the rise of AAP leader Amanatullah Khan

Written by corres2

A two-time MLA, the 48-year-old who lives in Joga Bai Extension in Jamia Nagar has such hold over the seat that he won it in the 2020 Assembly elections by 71,000 votes. What has sustained that popularity is Khan’s willingness to speak up for the Muslim community and its causes, at a time when AAP itself is increasingly cagey about it.

It is these agitations for which Khan frequently finds himself in controversies. As per the Delhi Police, he has had 18 FIRs lodged against him, most of them for obstructing public servants in their duty, and for intimidation, and causing enmity and hurt. A history sheet prepared by police earlier this year shows he has been either acquitted or discharged in 10 of these 18 cases.

The son of a farmer who is married with two schoolgoing children, Khan was born in Meerut in 1974. The family later moved to Delhi.

Starting out as a businessman, Khan gradually rose as a community leader in the area, leading to an interest in politics. In the 2013 Delhi Assembly polls, he fought his first election on a ticket of the Lok Janshakti Party of the late Ram Vilas Paswan. With the party having almost no presence in Delhi, Khan lost.

In 2015, he moved to AAP, which went on to sweep the Assembly elections.

In the party, Khan was soon seen as one of the factors in the deepening of the rift between senior party leaders Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia, and AAP founding member Kumar Vishwas.

In 2017, Khan called Vishwas a “BJP agent” who was trying to “split the party”. Speaking to The Indian Express at the time, he said: “This person (Vishwas) invited (NSA) Ajit Doval and RSS workers for his birthday party. How is it that he did not think of AAP MLAs and volunteers then… at a time when police, directed by the BJP, was arresting us and had launched a witch-hunt? Now he is talking about the greater good of the party… I still say he is an agent of the BJP and is trying to break the party.”

In what was seen as a bid to placate Vishwas, Khan was made to step down from AAP’s political affairs committee, and later suspended. His suspension was revoked a few months later.

Five years down the line, Khan is firmly established in AAP as a senior leader and an important Muslim face, while Vishwas has had frequent run-ins with the leadership and is now no more involved in the party’s activities, though he remains a member on paper.

In 2018, Khan was accused of assaulting then Delhi Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash at Chief Minister Kejriwal’s residence. The court last year ordered framing of charges against him and fellow MLA Prakash Jarwal, while acquitting Kejriwal, Deputy CM Sisodia and nine others in the case.

The protests in late 2019, early 2020 against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and NRC in Shaheen Bagh, which falls under his constituency and is located quite near to where he lives, gave Khan the stage he needed to raise his profile.

Even as AAP officially maintained a distance from the protests, Khan not only backed them, he also joined the agitation regularly.

An AAP leader who did not want to be named said: “Amanatullah Khan, while controversial, has a lot of hold on his constituency. AAP’s stand of staying away from controversies over the past few years has meant that it has not come out in support of the anti-CAA protests, but Khan has always stood with his constituents as an MLA and party leader.”

Delhi BJP spokesperson Praveen Shankar Kapoor said police had a “strong case” against Khan. “The 18 cases against him show how such a person can abuse and misuse his political clout to threaten people or officers to grab private or public land.”

Speaking to The Indian Express Thursday at Madanpur Khadar, before he was arrested, Khan said he stood for not just Muslims but “everyone” and was “not scared to go to jail”. “Madanpur Khadar is an unauthorised regularised colony. The Delhi government is doing everything here… making roads, repairing sewers. The BJP, MCD only come here to give notices and collect money from people. Everyone says Amanatullah supports and works for Muslims, but that’s not true. At Khadar, we have a mixed population and most of the voters support the BJP… They (police) say that I am breaking laws. How is protesting a crime? I don’t want to disrupt the law and order. I am sitting peacefully and protesting.”

Accusing the BJP of extorting people, Khan added, “We have never harassed poor people… Everyone, including my family, is scared because they will either have to pay huge sums of money to save their place or become a victim of bulldozer justice.”

He said he could not stay away amidst all that was happening. “I go to my office every day with the thought that I can’t be sitting at home while my area is being demolished and my people are losing their homes and livelihood. I am here to show support and do something the BJP can never do.”




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