Even as Aam Admi Party top brass defends the Delhi Minister’s action, women’s and students groups protest the vigilante-style harassment of two Ugandan women based on racial prejudices
By Team FI
Over 150 Delhites participated in a sit-in protest today at Jantar Mantar to condemn the recent racist violence against African nationals living in Delhi. Two Ugandan women were subjected to harassment and racial abuse by a group of Aam Admi Party (AAP) supporters and local residents as the AAP Law minister of Delhi, Somnath Bharti mounted a vigilante-style raid on African residents alleging they were running a “sex and drug ring”.
The sit in protest was called by women’s and students organisations including All India Progressive Women’s Association and Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union. Many African nationals joined the protest accompanied by music including hip hop songs.
On 16, December night, a group of AAP activists and Malviya Nagar residents led by the Minister, Somnath Bharti insisted that the police conduct a raid without a search warrant on African nationals living in the Khirki Extension of South Delhi.
According to news reports, the Minister asked the locals to draw up a list of African nationals’ residences – ‘jahan aise log rehte hain’ (where such people live), vowing to raid and search each of these homes. He also told the media that, “I have received a lot of complaints from women in this locality against foreign nationals, yeh hum aur aap jaise nahin hain (They are not like you or me).”
The two Ugandan women have said, on record, that they were subjected to racist abuse (‘black people break laws’) and beaten by a mob of people (the Minister’s supporters), and that it was the Delhi police who protected them from the mob violence.
The women were also subjected to cavity searches and tests – none of which yielded any sign of drugs. One woman was allegedly forced to give a urine sample in public. According to activists the violence against the African women was defended in the name of anger against ‘prostitution’ and ‘drug peddling’, while no proof of the same has been presented as yet. The press release stated that even if it is proved that they are indeed sex workers, the treatment meted out to the women cannot be justified.
Activists were further disturbed by the Delhi CM, Arvind Kejriwal’s bizarre defense of his Minister’s actions – that ‘Rape tendencies start with drug and sex rackets’.
It is ironic that the rape of a Danish woman in Delhi is recognised as violence against a woman – a foreign guest in our country. But the violence and appalling violation of rights to which African women were subjected to, isn’t recognised by the Delhi Government as the same – and is even defended in the name of fighting ‘rape tendencies’!
Racism is no stranger to India with growing instances of xenophobia and violence against African nationals in Karnataka, Goa and other parts of the country. People from the North East of India too experience racist prejudice and violence regularly in Delhi and other parts of the country.
The press note distributed by the activists pointed out that, “For a Minister to instigate the police to violate the law and people’s liberties and rights; to ask the police to approve of and bless mob violence against African people, is totally unacceptable. Delhi Police should be held accountable to the law and to the Constitution, not to the bidding of political leaders.”
The two Ugandan women lodged a complaint with the metropolitan magistrate based on which a Delhi court asked the police to file an FIR against law minister Somnath Bharti and others. The court had passed the order under section 156 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Code, which grants a magistrate the right ask police to file an FIR. However, according to latest news reports, the FIR does not name the Minister and it has been lodged against “unknown accused.”
The following demands were put forward by the protesters at Jantar Mantar:
• To ask that the judicial probe ordered by the Lieutenant Governor identify those responsible for instigating and perpetrating mob violence against African nationals, including African women in Khirki village. To demand that those guilty of such violence be punished.
• To strongly counter racist hate-speech of the Law Minister.
• To strongly resist the racist propaganda that ‘all Africans are drug peddlers’.
• To tell the Delhi Govt that the Delhi Police cops who protected Africans from mob violence and refused to raid without search warrant, must not be suspended. Delhi Police should be held accountable to the law and to the Constitution, not to the bidding of political leaders.
• To strongly say ‘Not in our name’: to assert that profiling of and violence against African women will not make Indian women any safer from rape; to tell the Delhi CM to stop using rape as a pretext to defend racism.
• To create a space for African nationals in Delhi to share their experiences. To tell the people of Delhi that Africans ‘bilkul hum aur aap jaise hi hain’ (are just like you and me).
Featured photo courtesy: The Hindu