At least 17 people have been arrested by the Delhi Police over posters criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi's handling of the coronavirus pandemic that came up in the past few days in the capital, sources told NDTV on Saturday.
The Delhi Police, which is controlled by the central government, have registered more than 21 First Information Reports or FIRs under sections of the Defacement of Public Property Act besides other laws.
The arrests were made by four different divisions of the police - eastern range, east, central and northeast - suggesting the operation was a coordinated action.
The move comes over posters that had emerged in several parts of the city with messages like: "Modi ji, aapne humare bacchon ki vaccine videsh kyu bhej diya?" (Modi ji, why did send vaccines meant for our children, abroad?).
On Thursday, six people were arrested in East Delhi's Kalyanpuri area where Delhi Police received input that the posters criticising the Prime Minister were being put up. More than 800 posters and banners were also recovered, sources said.
"More FIRs are likely to be registered if further complaints are received in this regard. As of now, investigation is underway to ascertain on whose behalf these posters were being put up at various places across the city and accordingly further action will be taken," a senior police officer told news agency PTI.
Delhi has been one of the worst-hit territories in the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic and has seen horrific scenes in the past few weeks of hospitals being overwhelmed and running short of necessities like medical oxygen.
Though the infection numbers have come down in recent days after thousands of deaths, many have flagged a dip in testing.
India has reported more than 3 lakh infections a day over the past three weeks, overwhelming its health care system and leaving many without hospital beds, oxygen and adequate treatment.
PM Modi's government has been sharply criticised by the opposition and international media for appearing more intent on addressing the bad publicity than solving the COVID-19 crisis.
The administration's vaccine policy - marked by slow-buying of vaccines and then passing on the responsibility on states once shortages kicked in - has also been widely described as botched.
Governments in several states like Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh have been accused of trying to hide their casualties as hundreds of bodies have been seen floating in rivers and buried in the sand by the banks.